Sunday, August 10, 2014

Women on Top

Many moons ago (however many moons ten years would equate to — would that be 120?), I was the president of a professional association. It was a big deal, although not quite as big a deal as my then first grade daughter thought. I remember her wondering aloud if we would have to move to the White House. 

The year I was president, I was supported by an executive board: immediate past president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. They were all men.

At monthly board meetings, we would catch up on news from each other's companies. And, I would also serve up funny stories about my daughter. All of my officers were fathers, but they rarely brought up their own children unless I asked. 

So, I made it a point to ask.

Even before running my own agency, I've always blended career and family. The way I look at it, if I'm willing to bring work home (and, believe me, I have done so — a lot!), then my employers, colleagues and staff need to understand that I also have to bring home to work. So, a story about a particular client job might be followed by a tale of a third grade science project. It all felt very natural to me. Yet, because I was so often the only woman at the table, I seemed to be the only one bridging that work/family divide.

It didn't stop me, but I sometimes felt like the odd woman out.

Fast forward to the current day, and I still serve on the board of directors for that same association. The board has grown and now includes several directors as well as officers. My role, happily, is as a "director at large." I offer guidance and serve on some committees, but my formal responsibilities are fewer. 

These days, our board comprises more women than men. So, at our recent annual retreat, the conversations very naturally blended work and family, policy and parenting. As we set strategic goals for the coming year, we also heard about one director's toddler and another's twenty-one year old. At breaks, we pulled out smart phones to share recent photos. I was the recipient of college search advice from one mother and offered insights on potty training to another. At various times, these executive  moms complained about fatigue, sleepless nights, conflicting commitments ... things we all related to.

If this sounds to you like one big coffee klatch, you'd be mistaken. My fellow board members are exceptionally accomplished professionals. The bulk of our meeting was focused on membership goals and programming for the coming year. Having served on the board for more than a decade, I can't remember a more productive session.

Women bemoan that, despite their subscriptions to Oprah's magazine, they can't do it all. Run a company, run a family, run a 10K for cancer research on the weekend. It often — okay, always — feels like too much. Yet the women I'm privileged to work with, do manage. These days, I think that much of what helps harried working mothers succeed is the camaraderie they are finally feeling because so many of their peers at the top are also harried working mothers.

As more and more women reach the corner office and the head of the conference room table, we're not just taking care of business. We're changing it. In order to accomplish great things, we need each other's support. Whether that's in regard to marketing plans or motherhood. The more we see other women who have "been there, done that," the more confidence we have in our own ability to take care of ... well ... everything.

Who says it has to be lonely at the top? In my industry at least, women are rewriting the rules.

And I for one am loving it. 

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

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