I had the privilege of attending S.H.E. Summit two weekends ago as press. My attendance at the event was the culmination of a two-year promise I made to myself to get there. I stumbled upon this event a few years ago while on Twitter. I saw the hashtag trending and it immediately peaked my interest. I started reading all of the goodness on the hashtag which lead me to Claudia Chan’s website and from there I was hooked.
I have been to quite a few conferences over the years – each of them with a different mashup of pros and cons. Here’s what I appreciated about S.H.E. Summit:
1)The speakers were relatable. Each speaker shared their stories honestly and ended with sincere calls-to-action that spoke to their dedication to seeing all women thrive. Part of what energizes attendees to take action with any information acquired from your event is: Their ability to see themselves in the speakers and/or the stories being told.
2)They didn’t miss the opportunity to include men in the discussion. From the men who attended as a attendees to those who graced the stage, there was an important dialogue at S.H.E. Summit around how the empowerment and progression of women is affecting men. This is a conversation that is usually scoffed at by hardcore feminists, but I appreciated the difference in perspective.
3)Their programming was designed to address the whole woman, not just parts. When have you ever gone to a conference where you can get professional inspiration while finding out that there is underwear that exists to eliminate the god-awful maxi pad all women have to endure during that time of the month? Yes, this happened. We had the privilege of hearing from dynamic founder and serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Period Panties ( sorry not sorry, guys). Miki has created panties that are powered by technology that allows women to ditch the pad. Not only were there unanimous gasps in the room by the women in attendance, but we were all so captivated by her charge to remove the shame that is often synonymous with menstrual cycles for women around the world.
Miki wasn’t the only captivating voice that day. We also had the pleasure of being introduced to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop The Ball ( due to be released in Feb. 2017). Tiffany spoke to me personally because she shared her story of striving to be a perfect mom. She called her particular condition “Home Control Disease” (HCD). HCD is a condition that she defines as “having the need to have everything done a certain way – her way”. After her attempts at perfection failed her consistently, she started to redefine what success looked like.
For Tiffany, success boiled down to these three things:
1) Having a purposeful career
2) Cultivating a juicy partnership
3) Leading a healthy lifestyle.
With a new definition of success and letting go of perfection, she decided that it was okay to “drop the ball”. This meant that she would forgive herself if she missed responding to birthday party invites. It also meant that, she only manages what she can and lives with the imperfection of everything else. This is something I personally grapple with as I try feverishly to manage my three children, wife duties and my business.
Although I well know that I’m not alone in my mommypreneur plight, it was reassuring to know that it was okay to “drop the ball” if it means more peace and less pressure in my life.
Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit
If these two ladies weren’t enough to whip us in shape, we got hit over the head with the “Women & Money: Why We Struggle in the Relationship & Practical Steps to Financial Empowerment” panel. This panel encompassed Judy Dougherty, VP and Head of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group, Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivating the Masses, Silvia Tergas, Financial Planner at Prudential and was moderated by S.H.E. Summit Founder, Claudia Chan. Their message to us was to not leave our financial futures up to chance. What I appreciated about the discussion was that it talked about the difference between wealth versus income. Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group cited that “wealth is an inside job”.
Typically when we hear about acquiring wealth, it is spoken about as something tangible that we can go out and conquer. It was refreshing to hear them encourage us to do the internal work first so we know how to sustain and build upon the income when it comes.
As you can tell, S.H.E. Summit was chock full of inspiration and activation to get you moving towards chasing your dreams. My overall takeaway was: Success should be defined individually. Much of the pressure and shame women and men feel around how well they are doing in life stems from very general definitions of success that are rooted in how much money you have in your bank account or the items in your closet. Walking away from the S.H.E. Summit I felt empowered to help the women in my life and my clients to redefine success on their own terms. When you are focused on the things that are important to you and you are actively taking steps to achieve your goals – you are indeed a success.
I was a Snapchat and Instagram beast that day. Check out some of the highlights of my day below:
Unless you are fortunate enough to have women in your family who will share with you the impact of the inevitable decisions you will make both as a mother and a professional; you would have no clue about the difficult choices that lie ahead – when and if you take that leap. Amidst lackluster maternity leave, pay equity issues, real and perceived concerns of upward mobility among other factors, many women can find themselves feeling inadequate, overwhelmed and discouraged. Not to mention, that we can still see glimmers of the ongoing feud of who does it better: stay-at-home-moms or working moms – which presents another unnecessary layer of guilt. I would wager that we all are doing our best. We shoulder much more responsibility than we are given credit and the policies and practices of bigger business have not caught up with the reality of the average woman.
When I wrote about #EqualPayDay back in April, I asked a single question and sort of pointed the finger at employers by asking: what will they do differently now that “equal pay” is a prominent discussion? It was an important question to ask, because we are so easily moved to superficial action in the name of the latest salacious headline or social catastrophe of the day. As such, I wanted to remind employers that when #EqualPayDay, National Women’s Suffrage Day, Mother’s Day and any other consumerist holiday is over and the hashtags have stopped trending that there is a human that must continue on in obscurity trying to make sense of finances, life, family, identity and career in a society that simply has no place for them.
Sounds grim, but this is the reality of many women who have made a very natural decision to have children. In this process, many of us moms have loss a sense of self while performing one of the most benevolent jobs known to humanity. I had aspirations of climbing the ladder, grappling for a title and reaping the rewards of a decent salary. I chose motherhood and suddenly climbing that ladder had extra rungs that I never saw before childbirth and that decent salary seemed further and further in the distance. I bowed out, but not completely.
There have been glimmers of hope, like the announcement by IBM last week that they will ship breast milk home for traveling mothers free of charge. Still, so many other companies don’t understand or get the magnitude of the reality I have just illustrated and so women have to consider other career options.
You see we are in a time where you don’t have to live in obscurity. Becoming a mom doesn’t have to limit your personal and career growth. In fact, if your career has been at a standstill the problem isn’t your employer -it is you. Social Media and this new reality of global connectedness allows you to create your career reality. If you need to work for someone else, you can do it. If you want to start a business, you can do that. If you have always had a knack for writing, you can pursue that and be recognized. All of these options are possible because we are our own brand ready to be cultivated and marketed in the right setting for a specific purpose.
We all have a purpose. Women deserve to continue with their careers or shift gears if need be. Becoming a mother shouldn’t have to be an all or nothing endeavor. This is why I am so happy to be working with Dr. Hilary Berger, Founder of Work Like a Mother. She was one of my initial clients when I decided to launch my business a few years ago and now two years later I am partnering with her through her Work Like a Mother Career Academy to help some very deserving women get their career mojo back.
Through this academy, our participants will have everything updated from their resumes to their knowledge of how to use social media for personal branding and jobseeking purposes. I am so excited and honored to be in a position to help brilliant women discover their passions and further their careers. If this academy puts a small dent in the number of women who have lost their way in motherhood, I will feel like I have made a difference.
I will be teaching three courses over the next three months that will hopefully open the minds of my fellow mommies and help them get their career mojo back. Follow our workshops via the #wlmacademy hashtag.
If you feel compelled, send a kind word or words of encouragement to our academy participants to let them know they are already headed in the right direction.
Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.
Day 19 of 31- Finding My Place In The Universe
Feminists everywhere are about to cringe, but I have to honestly say my favorite and most rewarding jobs are being a mother and a wife. There is something really magical and sacred about finding someone who gets you, loves you, supports you and shares your goals and aspirations. As if that isn’t monumental enough, your blessings are exponentially amplified when you start a family.
At a certain point in my twenties I realized I wanted to be a mom and wife, but I never imagined the ways it would change me, bless me, and challenge me. All of my life, I encountered settings, groups, and places where I didn’t quite fit. When I got married and had kids, that all changed. I found my place in the universe. Each of my kids are a part of me at different stages of my life and it is a real joy to watch them grow and explore. My husband and I have been extremely intentional about creating a fun, loving and meaningful environment for our kids. Working head and head with him to figure those things out is the most fun workforce planning I have ever done.
I’m not one of those rose-colored glasses mothers that lives and dies by her children and husband. Some days they all make me want to scream; but even on those days-I am in awe of them and so grateful that I we get to walk this journey together. I meet people that are constantly complaining about their husband and children and find me weird when I don’t have the same sentiments about my home life. Just like I don’t question why they are so unhappy, I think people should have the same respect to not to question my happiness.
My formula to a happy home life is pretty simple: I keep my affairs in my home, I mind my own business, and we forge through tough times with love, faith and understanding. There are a few other tips, but I don’t want to fog up your screen- I am an HR practitioner you know.
Having a place you can fail, succeed, be goofy, and be vulnerable is priceless. Everything I have been through in my life has been worth it- if it was all meant to prepare me to create and nurture my little family.
What do you cherish the most about your family?
Czarina’s lesson: We all have a place in this universe. Find yours and be happy.
I was inspired by the TLNT wrap-up written by John Hollon last week discussing the demographics of people participating in flex work and questioning why there is a lack of women teleworking. For more on what he said- read here.
As someone who considers herself fortunate to telework, I can tell you that merely referring to the arrangement as “fortunate” is part of the problem. You see there are many employers that still see this flex work as the ultimate privilege. It is almost as though they should be crowned best employer and have employees kneel before them for bestowing such an honor. They put unnecessary and onerous hurdles in front of employees that are afforded flex work and in turn it becomes a less desirable option.
Women in particular have been made to disclose every nook and cranny of their home arrangements. Some are subjected to presumptuous questioning regarding whether or not they have a nanny to watch their kids during telework time. While other flex work infractions have to do with being exclusive to a certain subsection of employees- leaving those with other non-familial obligations feeling singled out from the possibility of teleworking.
When the strategy becomes this entitled all or nothing process, you have to ask yourself are companies really all-in regarding flex work or are they slapping a policy together to appear as though they are a part of the growing trend?
I like what Cali Yost of CEO of Flex+ Strategy Group said in a recent press release, “Telework is not a perk and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y. Rather, it’s an operational strategy.”
If you have a flex work option for your employees, is it being treated as an operational strategy or is it a wild-card policy that you pull out of your bag-of-tricks to appease employees?
It needs to be an operational strategy. Your employees both men and women are stretched at home and at work; with or without children. If the job lends itself to some flexibility- give it to them. Like most concepts of giving- try to give flexibility without ultimatums and ridiculous demands in return for this alternative.
Here are some rules of engagement if you are serious about offering your employees more flexibility:
1) Focus on results. It is none of your business who watches their kids, if a nanny is present during telework hours, spouse’s work hours etc. As long as you are receiving their work and it is quality, focus on the results; not how they got there.
2) Trust your employees to do the right thing. If you don’t ask your employees to document what they do every minute of the day in the office, why would you do it when they flex work? Trust your employees to do the right thing unless you find out otherwise.
3) Do not offer flex work unless you believe in it as an “operational strategy”. Everyone wins when trust and flexibility are given. The second you start to micromanage or make your flex work policy an elitist offering it will do more harm than good for the company and your brand.
According to a recent infographic by Flex+Strategy Group, 31% of workers are working from home, a business center or another location. Employers can expect decreased absenteeism and tardiness, less employee burnout, increased employee productivity as a result of offering flex work.
So I ask employers that are still hesitant about flex work- what are you really losing?
Need some innovative ideas on flex work strategies- contact us.
After being pregnant three times over the past seven years, I have seen, heard, and endured things that have both shocked me and made me angry. For starters, there are far too many employers that are still treating pregnancy as if it is a cardinal sin and a complete undoing to their business. Having children whether as an older more tenured employee or an early careerist is a life decision that need not be vetted or agreed with by an employer. Certainly, there are the usual considerations of the inevitable impact of having children depending on where you are in your career; but they are just that- considerations.
Consider this instead:
*The U.S. is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
*Having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in the U.S. — when income dips below what’s needed for basic living expenses.
When you are notified by an employee that they are pregnant, they haven’t just given you their resignation simultaneously. Pregnant women are not only capable of continuing their duties (unless sickness and or the physical nature of their job interfere), but they are worthy of having your support as an employer.
As a new business owner, I would like to impart some food-for thought for dealing with pregnancy in general and pregnant employees:
Stop saying dumb things to your pregnant employees. If you are hesitant to say what you’re thinking or you are unsure; do yourself a favor and be quiet.
Be kind.In as much as pregnant women are willing and capable, a little compassion can go a long way. Ask them how they are feeling. If they are struggling during the first trimester or beyond; allow some leniency. It’s that whole do onto others philosophy.
Did you also know?*51% of new mothers lack any paid leave —so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs. If you can help it, get out of this third-world mentality that exists in the US and offer your female employees a dose of relief in the way of a paid maternity leave, the ability to phase-back to work, short-term disability etc.
While said employee is on leave, do your best to refrain from contacting her regarding work related things or anything in general. Maternity leave is supposed to be a time for healing, bonding, and family. Respect the employee’s time.
Lastly, if there are concerns about adequate time and the like- communicate your concern, but don’t over communicate. There are dr.’s appointments, unforeseen sicknesses, etc. Again, if this is a good employee do your best to work through these hurdles. In business, there are always workarounds whether you want to openly admit it or not).
Don’t forget your male employees. They are becoming dads too and may need your support as well.
Pregnant women are not second-class citizens. You do not have to fundamentally agree with the act of childbearing or its timing but you do have an obligation to respect the decision and support your employees as best you can.
Every year Working Mother.com compiles a list of the best 100 companies for the working mother. One of their requirements for application acceptance is that they offer at least one week of paid family leave or they must be on their way to implementing some sort of paid maternity leave. The list is great and proof that nothing I said here is pie-in-the-sky. Check the list of companies out here.
Here’s a wacky bonus tip: don’t touch your pregnant employee unless you ask. I once had a manager push in my protruding belly button because she thought it was odd and cute. Please stop doing these things. It doesn’t bode well for anyone involved.
What are some innovative arrangements or policies you have implemented to support your pregnant or even new mother employees?