Only Just Begun
I was recently honored at Best 50 Women in Business by NJBIZ. The experience was energizing and thought-provoking all at once. It was surreal to sit among this impressive group being recognized for professional success, community involvement, and advocacy for women. I was surrounded by incredible talent: disruptors and change agents with accomplishments in important areas including cybersecurity, clean water, construction and inner city mentoring.
I reflected on my unconventional career journey leading to that evening. I thought back to 11 years ago when Inspire HR was launched from a desk in our living room, with our one-year-old twins crawling around, so I could manage a career while raising my children. Busy pursuing Inspire’s goals and milestones, it was unexpected that the awards committee saw something special in the way my one-woman show grew to employ 28 part-time employees, allowing each to take care of their families’ needs.
As we waited for the program to begin, I was struck by the physical format of the room. Every honoree had an empty seat next to them, a seat for a critical support person helping to make these accomplishments possible. For me, it was my husband, Darren who I asked to sit beside me. I loved the symbolism of a space for that person beside you. The reality is that most female leaders I know are supported by a literal village: spouses, partners, babysitters, carpooling buddies, tutors, kind neighbors, supportive family, take out delivery people, etc. When I meet with other female executives, the conversation often turns to life hacks, or “time benders” as my best friend puts it. Their list typically starts with staples like Amazon Prime and Fresh Direct. It then expands to creative ways to keep their home glued together. Two of my personal favorites are buying a year worth of greeting cards from Target each January to avoid running to the store each time, or buying twenty age-appropriate gifts each September (and wrapping them in advance) to be ready for classmates’ birthday parties throughout the school year. Each female leader has their own unique village and list if life hacks to create the space for playing multiple roles as partner, parent and professional.
Not too long after our host welcomed us, the conversation went directly to the weighty topic that has defined women and work over the past 6 months—the era of #MeToo. The keynote speaker acknowledged that countless female leaders had their own #MeToo moments along their journey to leadership roles. Some of them profoundly impacted by the devastating experience of harassment, while others adapted to the constant micro-inequities faced in male-dominated work environments.
Sitting there, I understood the significance of this award for me. Some women will battle gender inequality legislatively, and others by promoting awareness. And some (like me) will focus on filling the vacuum created by women leaving the workplace, feeling like they must choose between career and family. Inspire will continue to seek out experienced HR professionals looking for flexible work arrangements. I will continue to share my life hacks, and help others build personal support villages so that they can juggle career and family.
I left the evening filled with resolve. The award was more than an acknowledgment of something completed, but rather what has only just begun. The challenge is to run with what I started: doing what I love in the field of HR while making space for other women to do the same.