March 8, 2018

The Question I Wish Everyone Was Asked

Stephanie Harris

The theme of this year's #InternationalWomensDay is #PressforProgress with a call to motivate and unite communities to be more gender inclusive. The goal is to “press forwardand progress gender parity.” At PartnerCentric, it’s one of our core reasons for existing to treat everyone fairly and promote equality across the board when it comes to employment, day-to-day interactions and pay. Not only is it stated in our handbook, but we’ve also taken the Glassdoor Pay Equality Pledge. As a woman-owned and women-led organization, we promote and encourage all of our team members to present ideas for growth and innovation within the organization while prioritizing work/life balance. The question I get asked a lot as a working mom is “Can you really have it all?” And my answer is always yes...but not all at once. Now, that’s a topic for a whole other article but today, on International Women’s Day, what I really want to know is: Aren’t we all tired of this question? And if this question still has to exist, it should be something everyone is asked, not just women, and it should be a part of a much larger conversation.

When I think about International Women’s Day, I think about the steps that we all can take to ensure women feel empowered to ask for what they want and deserve, since we historically have struggled with this. In the future, I want to see a world where every successful person, regardless of gender, is juggling equally important but different priorities that include both work and life. We all have different identities and our personal lives are just as important to nurture as our work lives. And women, it is certainly true, have certain roles that men simply don’t have. We can’t delegate, and nor would we really want to, pregnancy and childbirth and its complicated, amazing and exhausting aftermath. We are “Mommy” and/or “Wife” when we walk in the door, and that has its own unique assignment of expectations and natural instincts. But men have their own roles to fill as well so it’s not a women-only issue.

As a working mom, I want to be sure that all parents at PartnerCentric have the ability to build a career they can be proud of while never missing a doctor’s appointment, school play or soccer practice. I think it’s important to lead by example and so I show all my team - men and women alike - that my family is my top priority, but that this PartnerCentric family is here to enable them to achieve their larger dream.  In my case, by allowing me to be a focused leader but also a present wife and mom. We are whole people, not individuals with one sole singular focus on our careers, and because of that our work is more meaningful and a larger part of the balance in our lives. Perhaps with more women emerging in leadership roles, there will be a greater move toward “How do you do it all?” support for both sexes because, as women (who often have the double expectation of managing the home life and professional life) the issue is closest to our hearts. We can most empathize with these issues and institute real change at a cultural DNA level in our businesses and our teams to ensure that both women and men can really have it all...even if it’s not all at once.

Here are just some of the women who have inspired me, whether with their writing, their words or their actions. These successful women are innovative, brilliant and carving out their own niche, while still setting an example of balancing that with what’s most important. They are moms and they are badasses, and they are today’s example of “having it all” by leaning in to the things that matter. I hope you find inspiration here as well.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

Don’t be fooled by her soft-spoken and calming nature. This is one tough and brilliant cookie. She’s a former city girl who moved to her husband’s ranch in Oklahoma when they got hitched and turned that “fish out of water” resourcefulness into a money-maker. She has been able to spearhead and grow a wildly successful business while raising her four kids with a hands-on approach. She might live in her self-proclaimed “middle of nowhere” but has turned what was originally just a blog into a huge and thriving business (books! tv show! crockpots!) while keeping her family front and center at all times. She’s arguably become one of the most popular faces on the Food Network, and a successful businesswoman and brand, by being true to herself and “having it all”.

Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube

She’s a mother of five that went from being the marketing manager at Google to the CEO of YouTube. This incredible woman believes that we need even more paid parental leave in this country and penned a Wall Street Journal op ed about why it’s important. I applaud her for publicly recognizing, when she gets this “how do you do it all” question, that it’s easier for a CEO to be a working mom as they have the financial resources and help to do it and that it’s much harder when you’re lower on the rung. This is a leader who is able to set a great work/life example for her team. Additionally, when you have to balance the needs of a company and the needs of your family, it makes you a much more efficient worker. In a 2015 Time article, Wojcicki spoke about how she prioritizes family: “Wojcicki, for example, says her desire to be home for dinner with her kids made it difficult for her in the beginning because she was more reluctant to go to evening events or travel as much. It’s one of the reasons, she believes why as the CEO of a site with a billion users, she has an unfamiliar name to most people. But that desire to cap her workday also helped her to prioritize and time-block ruthlessly.”

Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company

Mary Barra is the first female CEO of a major global automaker. That alone is an incredible distinction in such a “boy’s club” but she also works hard to promote work/life balance for her employees. In a Business Insider article from 2015 she said, “In the role I have now — even for the last few jobs — I’ll say, ‘You know what, guys? This meeting needs to end on time because I’m going to my daughter’s soccer game. So we’re going to be done at 5:30 because I’ve got to go then.’” She also states that “We need to find the opportunity not to do everything, but to do the important things.” As a mom of two, she gets that she can’t be everywhere all the time, or everything to everybody, all at once.  But her team knows that when she’s there, she’s there. And she prioritizes the important things.

These books by women authors have a specific emphasis on carrying on and being fearless. If we’re going to make progress on this International Women’s Day, then we can use some help from the lessons in these writings:

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World By: Chelsea Clinton

I recently read this book to my oldest daughter to show her that persistence and grit are great qualities to have. I want all my children, not only my three girls but also my son, to feel like they can achieve anything, and that no matter the obstacles in front of us, we can do amazing things with persistence. This is a great lesson for the kid in all of us who needs a little encouragement to continue on.

Grit By: Angela Duckworth

Speaking of “Grit,” I loved this book because, for one, I think it’s the first business book I’ve ever seen that specifically talks about and focuses on this more nuanced quality known as “grit.”  The real secret to achieving sustained excellence is not talent but a mix of passion and long-term perseverance (grit). Through countless interviews with high-powered executives and people just trying to reach their dreams, Duckworth proves that grit can be learned and practiced regardless of one’s circumstances.  This is something all women, and men, need to harness in order to progress and break barriers while trying to “do it all”.

Mindset By: Carol Dweck

In “Mindset” Dweck shows that the way we think about our talents and abilities influences how we perform and achieve. A “fixed” mindset believe that your abilities are set and can’t be improved, while those with a “growth” mindset are always looking to learn because they believe their abilities can be enhanced. With the right mindset, anything can be accomplished. The best thing is, you can retrain yourself to have more of a growth mindset.  When we fail, especially as women, the negative soundtrack in our heads starts its rotation, which can be self-defeating. A growth mindset allows us to re-focus and learn from mistakes because true growth comes from failure.

How are you acknowledging #InternationalWomensDay? What women inspire you?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.