By G. Gwyn, Conference Attendee
HBA leaders give insight into how women can define and create their own path to managing a successful career and personal life.
The popular article, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All, written in the Atlantic this year, raised an important issue that being a female’s in today’s U.S. culture has a set of demanding challenges. More females entered the workforce due to a multitude of reasons reaching from financial necessity to ambition. The previous cultural norm, which had moms at home raising the kids, began breaking down as women began entering the workforce.
As women’s rights gained attention, females increasingly began to take on jobs that were previously monopolized by males. Many females not only realized they were great at these jobs and often better than the males, but they also felt intrigued by the intellectual challenges involved in applied business solutions. Growing female contributions to society produced through business structure expanded their influence on the world far beyond the boundaries of the child-bearing housewife reputation.
ORLANDO – To find the secrets to balancing demanding careers with healthy home lives, who better to ask than the movers and shakers who attend the annual Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) Leadership Conference?
At the most recent conference last month in Orlando, several female executives shared how they are not only surviving, but perhaps even pioneering ways to achieve the work-life balance that eludes so many.
Conversations with leaders such as Roslyn Schneider, senior director of medical affairs for the cardiovascular team at Pfizer; Karen Hough, founder and chief executive officer of ImprovEdge; and Maya Townsend, founder and lead consultant of Partnering Resources, revealed a consensus that big keys to success are planning, strategy and support.
These conversations also underlined the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all model. The more personalized a plan can be, the more tailored it is to the individual’s life, and the deeper self-knowledge it reflects, the better that plan’s chances of success, these leaders agreed.
Also factors, they said, are wise leveraging of the specialized knowledge of others, and smart use of technology, especially in the area of collaboration.
Hough said whatever female executives do, they shouldn’t skimp on time with their families. One way to avoid this is to bring them along on the professional journey, she said.
“My kids and husband have traveled with me, helped me prepare, tested exercises and given me ideas,” Hough said. “It creates a supportive whole world for me.”
For Schneider, she said she needed to stop thinking of her value in terms of corporate politics and instead to focus on what needs to be done and how to get it done. She has also begun tailoring work groups for the project, regardless of people’s titles or status within the company, she said.
True leaders don’t require permission to lead, she said.
Getting some tips
Schneider had plenty of advice for women seeking success both at work and at home. She suggests that women:
- Decide what they want for the short and long term.
- Surround themselves with people who understand and support them.
- Make no apologies for their personal and professional dreams, or how they hope to connect or separate them.
- Remember that careful planning of their careers and families can’t account for unpredictability on either front.
- Above all, stay flexible and re-assess often to keep their collective goals in sight.
Townsend said her professional goals influenced her views on whether to have children.
“I have never been particularly set on having my own children,” she said, “because I, in fact, don’t want to give up my work.”
She and her partner of 17 years, therefore, decided to adopt a child between 7 and 12, so they can continue working while the children go to school.
“Giving birth is not the only way to have a child,” she said.
The larger lesson she said in her own figuring out how family would intertwine with her professional goals was learning to discern what she really wanted.
“For me this included a life filled with love and surrounded by kids, but [that] didn’t need to be the traditional family route,” she said.
Townsend also said female executives can’t forget to network.
“Make sure you keep your network alive, so when you really need it, it will be there for you,” she said “Realize you can be a mentor to yourself and give to your connections, so they will give to you as well.”
Schneider and Townsend agreed that some barriers are real and forbidding, including those related to time and time management. To mitigate these challenges, they recommend deliberate and strategic delegation, which requires recognizing the talents of colleagues.
By delegating, a leader isn’t only encouraging leadership in others, but she is freeing up her own time to focus on other projects. And showing faith in people can unlock potential and reveal unique talents and abilities.
A barrier: The leaders themselves
Townsend said she knows that there will always be people who are better than her at certain things, and that this realization led her to focus on being her own personal best rather getting caught in an unhealthy competition.
Though by nature an introvert, for example, Townsend said she signed up for public speaking classes when she realized that public speaking would be an important aspect to running her own business.
Customize your own plan
Hearing insight from women who have found a way to create success in both their career and their personal life can inspire others to create their own plan for success. These leaders demonstrate that it’s important to customize your own approach and create supportive environments to sustain desired goals. Although challenges will continue to arise, an important take away from these leaders at the conference is that they believe in themselves as well as believe that having the life they want is entirely possible.