Last week I had the honor of moderating a panel of four strong working mothers as part of the Best Law Firms for Women Career Accelerator Summit.
- Regine Corrado, Baker & McKenzie
- Rebecca Pratt Degroff, Seyfarth Shaw
- Saranya Raghavan, Winston & Strawn
- Anne Sidrys, Kirkland & Ellis
For an hour and a half, we talked about the single biggest challenge for women – integrating work and life. While everyone has their own story and unique set of circumstances, there were 5 common themes that kept coming up during our discussion.
1. Build your Board of Directors
I always talk about my ‘champions’, but I loved when Regine Corrado said to “choose your Board of Directors.” This is all about identifying that small group of people in your lives that always have your back and they’re always there when you have a major decision to make. These are individuals you allow to influence you and help set the pace of your life. If you choose this “board” wisely, you know you can turn to them for anything big or small.
2. Be Agile
As a working professional and a parent, it’s important to be agile and flexible. Employees have a life outside of the business, and both need to make space for one another. When it comes to your job, don’t be afraid to ask your employer about flex options – if you need to leave at 5pm every Wednesday to pick up your child from daycare – that’s ok. Similarly, mothers often feel guilty about missing a soccer game or recital, but just as you need to be flexible with work, it’s ok if you aren’t at every game. As long as your child knows you love them, the rest will fall by the wayside.
3. Be Intentional
In our attempts of being “super-mom” it’s easy to over-commit to work or personal functions. You want to show your boss that you’re still 100% committed to the team after having a baby, so you sign up for every extra project or committee. And you want to prove to your children and other parents that you can be room mom, troop leader, etc., all while working 40+ hours a week. That’s just not possible, and you don’t end up doing your best work when you’re stretched beyond your limits. Be intentional in the activities you choose to participate in. If you’re going to do something, don’t do it halfway. Wherever you choose to be – be there 100% and get comfortable saying no!
4. Ask for Help
This seems like the simplest piece of advice, but is often the hardest for us to follow personally. We’re always ready to jump in and help a friend, but struggle to reach out ourselves. If you’re struggling at work, wouldn’t you ask your manager for help instead of letting them think you dropped the ball? It’s the same concept at home! Whether you need to work out a schedule with your significant other so they can ‘cover’ for you on certain days, or asking other parents if they can grab your child on the way to soccer practice – the smartest people are those that ask for help.
5. Be Authentic
Probably the most important theme to come out of this panel was to be true to yourself and be authentic. Don’t make decisions for others, do what feels good to you. Don’t be afraid to let your coworkers know that you are a parent and sometimes that means you need to leave right at 5. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to talk to your children about your job. If you love what you do, don’t hide it from them out of guilt. Let them see you as a strong woman that can balance both a career and motherhood. There is purpose and passion inside each of us, and I encourage you to share that inspiration with others.
Being a working mother isn’t easy. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people personally and professionally to make it work.
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