3 Ways Employers Can Support Women (and We Can Support Ourselves) Now

Tracy Dumas

It’s no secret that working women are facing unsustainable new challenges this year. Many working mothers have lost access to good childcare. Many working women without children are taking on new eldercare responsibilities. And even those without new caregiving demands are burdened by the fears and loneliness of these times.

“Everybody’s lives have been upended. And when your life is upended, it is going to affect your work,” work-life integration expert Tracy Dumas recently said.

Indeed, women with caretaking responsibilities have already begun to drop out of the workforce at alarming rates.

So, what can employers do to help retain quality talent in all the many fields in which women are contributing to the society and the economy—in some areas, at rates of 50 percent or more of the workforce? And what can we do to take better care of ourselves in these extraordinary times?

In an exclusive interview with the Conferences for Women, Dumas, an associate professor of management and human relations at Ohio State University, offered the following suggestions.


What employers can do:

  1. Figure out how you can help with childcare. “Organizations can help by either looking into establishing smaller facilities that employees could use for childcare or providing subsidies—some kind of financial assistance to help employees pay for childcare.”
  2. Focus on deliverables, not schedules. “Be attentive to the limitations employees have and give them a longer rope instead of enforcing a regular workday. Just pay attention to the deliverables and be flexible.”
  3. Think ahead to develop smarter policies and practices. When we are on the other side of this crisis, life will be different than it was before. So companies should start thinking now about what childcare, eldercare, and schooling might look like; how that will affect their employees; and how they can develop flexible, supportive policies and practices.

What you can do:

  1. Ask your company for childcare help. “If your organization hasn’t stepped up to provide child care but has shown a willingness to help, ask for smaller childcare facilities or subsidies.”
  2. Set some boundaries on work hours. “We switched into this new mode with no warning or preparation. And many of us haven’t been intentional about where and how to set boundaries about working at home.” Now, is the time to do that. Think about what you want your working hours to be – and when you can switch off and relax. “Research shows that having time to switch off allows you to come back to work more energized and better able to engage.”
  3. Be intentional about where in your house you work. “If you haven’t previously set aside a space for work at home, this may be a good time to do it. I just did this. Before I had no strategy. I was sitting on the couch for working and sitting on the couch for watching TV. Now, I’ve spruced up my home office a bit and, in general, created more of a boundary to feel more like I’m switching gears. I’m getting up and going to work now. And now I’m leaving my laptop in the office and going to watch TV. It may seem minor but feels different.”

“It is beneficial for anyone with any given task or responsibility to have the opportunity to unplug and recover. There is a whole body of research in organizational psychology on the benefits of recovery—of stepping away and unplugging and allowing yourself to be immersed in something totally different or just plain old rest.”

In other words, in a world in which so much is beyond our control, setting boundaries about when and where we work is something that is in our control that can help us keep our strength and resilience going through this marathon challenge.


IN OTHER NEWS

  • Want some timely virtual networking tips? Yai Vargas, founder of The Latinista, a national network of women and Latina professionals invested in professional development and career mobility, shares her thoughts on the latest episode of Women Amplified. Listen here.
  • Underserved young women are receiving financial and mentoring support this year as the first in their families to attend college—thanks to you and other members of the Conferences for Women community. Interested in helping? Learn more here.
  • Have you secured your ticket to the virtual 2020 Massachusetts Conference for Women? If not, learn more here.

More from the September 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Career Choices, Transitions, Life Balance, Health & Wellness, Goals & Priorities Tagged , |

How to Unleash Your Creative Genius – with Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert

This episode will make you feel GOOD—and we’ve got some exciting Conference news, too! Tune in.

Take an exciting and inspirational journey with Eat, Pray Love phenomenon Elizabeth Gilbert in this episode of Women Amplified. This intimate conversation will explore challenges facing women today, and offer insights to better navigate decision-making, productivity, communication, relationships, career paths and so much more.

Don’t think about fear as something you have to—or can—beat, says Elizabeth Gilbert. If you fight against fear, it will fight back harder and win. The better bet is to take a soft approach. Make room for your fear. Let it come along for the ride with you. Just be damn sure you don’t let it get into the driver’s seat.

Offering invaluable advice and real-life experiences, Gilbert will help you to embrace fear, unleash your creative genius and feel empowered to use your voice with confidence!

 


“I’m a big, walking permission slip …telling women that it’s okay, yes I do also think you should write a book, yes I do think it’s okay that you want more for yourself than this marriage is giving you. I agree. Do you want an authority figure to say that it’s okay for you to take a risk or to change your life? I am delighted to provide that role in your life. Until you have the courage to be your own permission slip, I am happy to be it for you.”Elizabeth Gilbert


 

This Month’s Guest:

ELIZABETH GILBERT is the author of Eat Pray Love. Exploding onto the scene in 2006, the best-seller famously chronicled the year Gilbert spent traveling the world after a shattering divorce. Translated into more than thirty languages, Eat Pray Love has sold over thirteen million copies worldwide, and in 2010, was made into a feature film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. Her writing has been published in Harper’s Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine. Gilbert was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and her work was anthologized in Best American Writing 2001. Her first book, Pilgrims, was a New York Times Most Notable Book, and won a Ploughshares prize. Her first novel, Stern Men, won the Kate Chopin Award in 2001. The Last American Man, which compellingly explores America’s long-standing intrigue with the pioneer lifestyle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. In Committed: A Love Story, the anticipated follow-up to Eat Pray Love, Gilbert tells the story of her unexpected plunge into second marriage. The Signature of All Things, Gilbert’s first novel in over a decade, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, and Time. Out of the period of introspection following Eat Pray Love, came Gilbert’s brilliant nonfiction treatise, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Her newest book, City of Girls, a love story set in New York City theater world during the 1940’s, was released in 2019. @gilbertliz

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me MoreTalk of the NationAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

Additional Resources:

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Posted in Podcasts, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

Resilience Expert Valorie Burton: On the Power of Self-Talk

Valorie Burton

“At the core of resilience is how you think,” says author and life strategist Valorie Burton. “That’s the thing we can control the most. You want to know: Is what you’re saying to yourself helping you or hurting you? A huge piece of resilience is what you say to yourself, and changing it if what you’re saying isn’t helping.”

Burton, author of 13 books, including Successful Women Think Differently, and her forthcoming Let Go of the Guilt, spoke with us recently about how successful women can think about these times.

Valorie Burton will join Melinda Gates, Issa Rae and other amazing speakers at the Oct. 1st virtual Texas Conference for Women. If you haven’t secured your ticket, learn more here. We’re expecting more attendees than ever this year!

Q: After writing 13 personal development books, what insights have you found most helpful for navigating these extraordinarily challenging times—and still being able to move forward toward your goals?

First and foremost, this is a real test of resilience. The pandemic was such an unexpected and shocking turn of events. Now with all of the social and racial unrest, it feels like: Oh, my goodness what is next? The emotional toll is very real. I think it is important to give yourself extra emotional space to deal with all of it.

As women, we are hard on ourselves. We expect ourselves to keep going in the same way as if nothing has changed. But things have changed. Being able to pivot is very important. We need to take stock of what has changed in our relationships, parenting, job or business, and health.

Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” is also a really important question. Then understand: This isn’t forever. And look for the opportunity in it for you. There are opportunities. Not in every situation. But in many, there are opportunities and messages. You don’t want to miss them. You have to look for them.

One of my favorite mantras when dealing with something hard is “What is is.” Fighting against it just ends up draining more energy. Obviously, things are harder for some people than others. But if you’re fighting against what is, you can’t focus on what to do to minimize the negative impact.

Q: You have spent more than 15 years studying resilience. What is the most important thing that women should know and do to cultivate the resilience that can help us in this moment?

Understand the power of a decision to get through it. When I went through a divorce 11 years ago, I thought my life was over. I was crying to my mom, and she said, “You’re 36! I hope your life’s not over!”

Then I came to a decision: I said, “I will walk through this fire but it will not consume me.” And, I decided that I would be better because of it. What I look for now is how can I grow through this difficulty and not just go through it.

At the core of resilience is how you think. That’s thing we can control the most. You want to know: Is what you’re saying to yourself helping you or hurting you? A huge piece of resilience is what you say to yourself and changing it if what you’re saying isn’t helping.

Q: As women, many of us find we take care of family, work, the house, the dog, and everything and everyone else—and then have little energy left for our own self-care. But if that’s not a helpful habit in ordinary times, it’s a seriously bad strategy in long challenging periods like this one. So, how do we use this moment to truly make self-care a priority?

I don’t want to use the cliché about putting the mask on yourself first. But taking the time to rest, to eat well, even to walk for 30 minutes: those things make a difference. So, I would say think of self-care as a resilience skill and a strategy for being able to accomplish everything else you need to accomplish and feel good while doing it. Then make it something enjoyable and doable and part of your to-do list.

Q: In Successful Women Think Differently, you identify nine habits that successful women practice. If you were to rewrite that book now, what ways of thinking could help us more successfully navigate these uncertain times?

Successful women see the big picture. Although they may not know how things will turn out, they understand there is a bigger picture. I think in these times, it’s about imagining yourself looking back and thinking about what you will wish you had done in these times. It is about making wise choices and not because you are panicked about something.

I understand that these times are stressful but we make choices everyday about the attitude we bring to what is going on. Cultivating positive emotions (through having something to look forward to, play, gratitude, movement and so on) is one of the most important strategies we have for dealing with stress.

Research tells us happiness isn’t just correlated with success. It causes success. So, in midst of all of this, I think it is even more important to do things that bring you joy because it will help you deal with all stuff that saps your joy.

Focusing on what is beyond your control is what leads to hopelessness. Successful women are always looking for internal locus of control.

Q: You have a new book coming out in September, called Let Go of the Guilt. Can you tell us about that?

A few years ago, I was asked to do a breakout session on work-life balance for parents. It was not my expertise. I was trying to figure out myself. I mentioned guilt because I was feeling it. The collective groans from women just struck me. I started bringing the subject up. The response from women was always the same.

Women are very hard on themselves—not because they did something awful but because of all of the expectations that society puts on us. I did some research and realized women are more guilt-prone than men. One study showed that women have a guilt-deficit until they are in their 50s.

So, I created coaching for letting go of guilt. I worked with a number of women who used the process. It worked. Women felt like a weight was lifted. I am very excited about this book.

Valorie Burton is the author of 13 books on personal development, founder of The Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute and an international speaker on resilience and happiness. Learn more at www.ValorieBurton.com.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

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Navigating Transitions in Unpredictable Times with Erica Williams Simon

Erica Williams Simon

Making a career pivot can be scary and paralyzing, especially when events transpire that force an unexpected transition.

Covid-19 has left many with lost jobs and time to reflect and reevaluate life and priorities. Others are struggling to succeed at remote work with a disrupted structure and, in many cases, no available childcare.

In this episode, Erica Williams Simon will draw on her personal experiences to share practical strategies to help you shut out the noise, overcome fear of the unknown and identify your next step. Learn how to navigate transition in times of uncertainty, steps you can implement immediately to pivot now and ways to effectively communicate your story.

“There is no yellow brick road anymore, if there ever was one. And so, the idea that you can talk and plan and think your way into your dream life is just unrealistic because the world is so unpredictable,” she said. “What you have to do is take steps and then put your finger up, check the wind like Moana, and see what’s happening and how am I feeling and where am I going.Erica Williams Simon

NEW: Please take our first-ever listener survey! (We’re giving away free tickets to make it worth your while!)

  •  

 

This Month’s Guest:

ERICA WILLIAMS SIMON is a social critic, author, host and CEO of Sage House, a company that creates spaces and content to surface wisdom about “who we are and how we want to live.” Most recently the former Washington politico and lifelong civil and human rights activist was head of The Creator’s Lab at Snapchat, a first of its kind program that developed inspirational experiences for a global network of young storytellers and creators. The self-described professional question asker is an accomplished moderator and interviewer. She is host of the popular podcast The Call, creator and host of the Rosario Dawson produced digital talk show The Assembly, and author of the book You Deserve the Truth (Simon & Schuster). She has been featured on The Today Show, O Magazine, and the Washington Post and is a frequent TV commentator. She recently moderated conversations with the co-founders of theSkimm at the PA, TX, and Watermark Conferences for Women; she also gave a standalone workshop at the 2020 Watermark Conference for Women in San Jose. @missewill

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as co-host of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

Additional Resources:

Website: Erica Williams Simon

Read the book: You Deserve the Truth

Hear from more great Conferences for Women speakers in our new podcast, Best Breakouts

Play
Posted in Podcasts, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Career Choices, Transitions, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women, Diversity & Inclusion Tagged , |

Why You May Be Better Equipped to Navigate Today’s Changes Than You Think

natural haired black woman smiling while looking away onto the street and thinking

If you’re like many people these days, you’ve been dealing with change as you never did before—changes that you didn’t seek out as the next positive step in your career or personal life but had thrust on you by outside circumstances.

But here’s a little good news:

The skills you need to deal with today’s unexpected changes are the same as the skills you likely have already tapped to create positive changes in your life. In other words, you may be a bit more prepared for the turmoil of 2020 than you think.

“I think the real difference between this type of transition and one initiated by your own desire is just in how you approach it,” Erica Williams Simon says in the newest episode of Women Amplified. “It’s about attitude,” the author of You Deserve the Truth: Change the Stories that Shaped Your World and Build a World-Changing Life, says.

“If the life that you thought you were living no longer exists, there’s a moment for grief, a moment to recognize that you weren’t expecting to have to make a shift here. But once you get there, however you get there, you have the power to determine your direction,” she says.

William Simons is host and CEO of Sage House, a company that creates spaces and content to surface wisdom about “who we are and how we want to live.” She is also using this moment to encourage women to make decisions that align with their needs but also their values, passions, desires, and vision for life.

Some years ago, Simon recognized that she was “successful” by most standards. She was listed on several “30 under 30″ lists as a rising political star and TV commentator. But she wasn’t happy. So, she quit and dove into a period of exploration that helped her understand that there were certain cultural narratives that shaped her idea of what it means to be successful; but they had nothing to do with what she wanted out of life.

Since then, she has been on a mission to help others understand the stories that shape their lives and create new ones that lead to the life they actually want— encouraging women to ask questions, such as: How does it make me feel when I use it? What am I seeking? What validation does it bring me? What is the impact? Does the impact match up with my vision for my life?”

This often takes a lot of experimentation, she says—and, as these times make clear, the need and willingness to pivot and pivot again.

“There is no yellow brick road anymore, if there ever was one. And so, the idea that you can talk and plan and think your way into your dream life is just unrealistic because the world is so unpredictable,” she said. “What you have to do is take steps and then put your finger up, check the wind like Moana [the character in the 2016 Walt Disney movie of the same name] and see what’s happening and how am I feeling and where am I going.

“I think that’s how you end up in the life that you want, which ultimately—and this is the mind-blowing part for me—may be different than what you think you want today. You only gain that perspective and that insight into what a new dream for yourself could be by living, by experimenting, and by doing.”

Listen to the entire conversation with Erica Williams Simon on Women Amplified.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Career Choices, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

A Futurist’s Predictions about the Coming World of Work

In times as uncertain as these, there’s something calming about speaking with a futurist—someone who, as Lisa Bodell describes it, knows how to marry strategic planning with scenario planning about possible, probable and preferable futures.

So, here are three things Bodell, award-winning author and CEO of futurethink, are possible outcomes we will see in the post-COVID-19 world of work that the popular Conference for Women speaker shared in a recent interview:

1. More remote work

At the basic level, I think the office is going to change—not just physically but how we work. I think there will be more remote work because people have experienced it and realize they can do it. Employers will say it is about creating work-life balance but the real reason is employers will see it as cost-efficient.”

2. Less work-life balance

“The ugly side of more remote work is that people will work longer hours. The work-life boundary is going to go away. I am already working more.”

3. More re-invention—and stronger businesses

“I think there is going to be a lot of reinvention to come out of this.” While in ordinary times, people tend to resist change, Bodell says COVID-19 has forced us to embrace it and do things we never would have done.

I think what will come out of this is a stronger business. I know that sounds ironic but I think business will become more relevant and bigger problem-solvers because we are moving into comfort with change, and this time has really forced people to re-evaluate what they are doing.

Greater comfort with change, on the individual and organizational level, is what Bodell sees as the third phase of our adapting to life in a global pandemic.

First, many of us were plunged into fear and felt frozen. Then, we started to adapt, even as we felt exhausted from change. Now, she says, we are moving toward figuring out how to get stuff done and build businesses again.

Going forward, she adds: “Change will be the norm, and we will settle into that norm.”


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

What Challenging Times Have Taught This Young Gender and Disability Advocate

Aria Mia Loberti

In her young lifetime, Aria Mia Loberti has faced more challenges than many of us.

In the third grade, she was taken out of school because her teachers were unable to accommodate that she was blind—or, more to the point, they forbid her from using a cane, saying she might trip other students; locked her in a room during recess; and permitted discrimination and bullying.

In middle school, she had an illness that caused memory loss and forced her to be on bedrest for two years.

Still, thanks to online learning and a supportive family, she went on to complete high school two years early and top of her class; graduated this year with a triple major from the University of Rhode Island; and was recently awarded a Fulbright to study in England, where she will travel alone this summer because her parents are in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

It’s a brief lifetime of experience that, coming from a wise young woman, offers unique insights into how to deal with change and challenge.

“Every time I look back on a transition in my life, I think there is a lot more to learn in retrospect than during the time of going through it,” said Loberti, who has represented women with disabilities as a delegate at the U.N. International Human Rights Summit and spoken at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.

“So, I would like to encourage people to look at this period of time with a lot of focus. Pick a goal for each day, each week—something short-term—so you can see the fruits of your labor demonstrated to you,” she said.

Put another way, she added: “Do whatever you need to do to get through this challenging time. It will be easier looking back. You survive and eventually thrive.”

As for what she is learning from living through a global pandemic, Loberti said: “So many people keep telling people my age that we have to be changemakers. I think that is really important and everybody can bring about change. But it is important to recognize that not everyone is going to bring about grandiose change.”

Her mother, for example, changed Loberti’s world by stopping work to homeschool her and care for her through two years of bedrest—something no one outside her circle would be likely to see as world-changing.

“The concept of what it means to change the world needs to be flipped on its head,” Loberti added. “Not everyone is going to be a future president or CEO. But you can change someone’s perspective for the better. You can influence your family or community for the better.”


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions Tagged , |

Navigating Transitions in Unpredictable Times with Erica Williams Simon

Making a career pivot can be scary and paralyzing, especially when events transpire that force an unexpected transition.

Covid-19 has left many with lost jobs and time to reflect and reevaluate life and priorities. Others are struggling to succeed at remote work with a disrupted structure and, in many cases, no available childcare.

In this episode, Erica Williams Simon will draw on her personal experiences to share practical strategies to help you shut out the noise, overcome fear of the unknown and identify your next step. Learn how to navigate transition in times of uncertainty, steps you can implement immediately to pivot now and ways to effectively communicate your story.

 

“There is no yellow brick road anymore, if there ever was one. And so, the idea that you can talk and plan and think your way into your dream life is just unrealistic because the world is so unpredictable,” she said. “What you have to do is take steps and then put your finger up, check the wind like Moana, and see what’s happening and how am I feeling and where am I going.Erica Williams Simon

 

+Please take our first-ever listener survey! (We’re giving away free tickets to make it worth your while!)


 

This Month’s Guest:

ERICA WILLIAMS SIMON is a social critic, author, host and CEO of Sage House, a company that creates spaces and content to surface wisdom about “who we are and how we want to live.” Most recently the former Washington politico and lifelong civil and human rights activist was head of The Creator’s Lab at Snapchat, a first of its kind program that developed inspirational experiences for a global network of young storytellers and creators. The self-described professional question asker is an accomplished moderator and interviewer. She is host of the popular podcast The Call, creator and host of the Rosario Dawson produced digital talk show The Assembly, and author of the book You Deserve the Truth (Simon & Schuster). She has been featured on The Today Show, O Magazine, and the Washington Post and is a frequent TV commentator. She recently moderated conversations with the co-founders of theSkimm at the PA, TX, and Watermark Conferences for Women; she also gave a standalone workshop at the 2020 Watermark Conference for Women in San Jose. @missewill

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as co-host of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

Additional Resources:

Website: Erica Williams Simon

Read the book: You Deserve the Truth

Hear from more great Conferences for Women speakers in our new podcast, Best Breakouts

Play
Posted in Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Career Choices, Transitions, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

Who Do You Want to Be When This Is Over?

Indian businesswoman thinking about the future

There’s a difference between being a go-getter and being gutsy, Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, observes in her book, Brave Not Perfect.

“So many women stick to doing only the things at which they excel, rarely going beyond what makes them feel confident and comfortable,” she writes.

But what happens when we’re outside our comfort zones—either by choice or by circumstances, such as the challenging ones we now find ourselves in?

That’s where being brave comes in. And, that’s why we thought it a good time to catch up with Reshma, a bravery expert, and hear how she is navigating these times at home with her husband, eight-week-old baby and five-year-old son with whom she’s making time to master TikTok dances. One of several things that she said is helping her is asking the question: “Who do you want to be when this is over?” Read the interview here.

In this month’s episode of “Women Amplified,” Reshma also joins another amazing woman, Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, for a dynamic conversation about why we need to give up on perfectionism to find our courage. Tune in here.

Finally, in case you missed it, here are some new resources and initiative we launched last month:

Stay strong, friends! And, if you found this helpful, please share it with someone.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

Finding Your Bravery Now: A Conversation with Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect, recently spoke with the Conferences for Women, about perfectionism and bravery in a world turned upside down. The conversation has been edited for brevity.

CFW: You’ve talked about striving for perfection as an impediment to growth. In today’s extraordinary circumstances, perfection doesn’t seem remotely possible. But does it still play a role in how women are responding to the present moment?

Reshma Saujani: Perfectionism is totally at play. The coronavirus is very hard for perfectionists and extroverts. Extroverts for obvious reasons, and perfectionists want an A on everything. If you’re working from home, with kids and dogs in the background, it’s stressing you out. When perfectionists are dealing with uncertainty, it’s also really hard.

You have to honor what you’re feeling, but be brief. If you were supposed to be at a conference and you’re not there, acknowledge that sucks. Then let it go. Also, recognize moments when anxiety hits. For me, it’s at night. Doing meditation and breathing then is helpful.

The question I keep asking myself is: Who do I want to be when we are out of this? Who do I want to be as a leader, a partner, a mother? If I can ask that question and be committed to it, then I can also play. I’ve played three innings of Whiffle ball with my son. I’ve never done that before. I’m taking voice lessons. I’m serious about mastering TikTok dances with him. Play is so important because it builds bravery and courage.

CFW: How else do we find our bravery in these unprecedented circumstances?

Saujani: I’ve been thinking a lot about how you develop courage in a crisis. Some of the tactics I talk about in the book apply. You can’t be brave if you’re tired. So, what are the things getting in the middle of your sleep now? I think it’s important to put devices away. I was on a call with work colleagues and could hear CNN in the background. I said, ‘Shut it off. Today will be as bad as yesterday.’ Playing and doing something you suck at is also important. It’s relevant to bravery and building coverage.

CFW: Strength is another good word—something we would all consider a good thing to strive for. But can expecting yourself to be strong at all times be setting yourself up for failure? Right now, after all, it seems we need to acknowledge that this situation is so much bigger than us and that it’s OK to not feel strong.

Saujani: Absolutely. I have an eight-week-old baby and a five-year-old and elderly parents with heart disease and diabetes who are five states away. I wasn’t acknowledging that I was feeling really scared. Every so often my husband would see me have a frightened look and stare off. He’d say: It’s going to be OK. And, I realized I was not acknowledging even to myself what I was feeling.

On social media, there’s so much about how to have perfect home schooling. I’m not seeing a lot of expression of fear and grief. But it’s what gets us to learn to be imperfect. If you’re constantly putting up walls, it’s just all veneer.

CFW: What has been most difficult for you in the present circumstances, and how have you been dealing with it?

Saujani: It’s frightening to bring a newborn into the world at this moment. I look at my son and think he’s frowning. He has to be picking up on us. The idea of not bringing enough joy into his life makes me feel bad.

I think it’s important to do one simple thing a day to take your mind off this. Maybe it’s one day not watching any news and watching The Tiger King on Netflix. Part of being less anxious is doing something that is totally mind-numbing.

In a moment when you have 6.6 million people unemployed and everybody is worried about their jobs, people also don’t feel they can be brave at work now or take time for themselves and that’s horrible. If I show up frazzled and afraid, that is not going to help. Self-care is important.

CFW: No one would wish these incredibly difficult circumstances on the world. But are there any opportunities for growth that you imagine could come from it?

Saujani: I think it gives us the opportunity to be still and question: Who do we want to be when we come out of this? It might be too much to answer that question today. But I think that is a good thing to think about.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |
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