International Women's Day
- “Balance” is something that we all struggle with, so Titina focuses on “career-life fit”.
- Challenge: Be an active participant in building the pipeline of future women in tech! Encourage girls to be curious about science, math, and technology.
Sunday March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere, and everyone has a part to play. In recognition of the day, I want to share my thoughts on a topic, that I have worked on most of my adult life and one that I know many of you may also have too – “Balance” - and not just throughout my career in tech, but also from a gender-balance perspective and a work-life balance point of view.
When I finally found a little free time to sit down and write this, it was 10 p.m. and I had just finished checking my work email, emptying the dishwasher, and picking up around the house (not necessarily in that order, as I was multitasking). I had contemplated whether to share my thoughts with the entire organization or just directed to women, however “balance” is something that we all struggle with and I decided that I want to celebrate IWD with all our Ellucian employees (and beyond)!
If I had a dollar for every time I was asked about work-life balance, I’d have a lot of money! I can tell you from my experience that it doesn’t exist — at least I haven’t found it in the past 30 years. Every time I’ve tried to be more intentional about having a balanced life, I’ve become more imbalanced. No matter how hard I try, I can’t put different parts of my life into neatly packaged compartments … not to mention, it’s totally unrealistic. So rather than trying to achieve someone else’s version of balance, I’ve realized I’m better off trying to figure out what balance looks like for me.
The reality is that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes I’m too busy and stressed and sometimes I’m not. Challenges like caring for aging parents, managing health, and starting a new job are not conducive to balance. So I’ve focused on “career-life fit,” realizing that life is too messy for exact balance. My mother is 87 and I lost my father six years ago, and the last five years of his life I cared for him. I’m married and have two bonus daughters who are a wonderful gift in my life. I try to let my personal priorities be my North Star: having a fulfilling relationship with my husband, being a role model in shaping the lives of two young women, providing support for my mother, and delivering to my fullest potential for my Ellucian peers, colleagues, and customers. So consider your priorities and figure out what works for you — and don’t be hard on yourself for not achieving work-life balance, as it doesn’t exist!
As I think about my career relative to a gender-balanced work environment, I have to go back to when I was in school in the mid-80s. I went to Case Western Reserve University and have an engineering degree. In most of my classes there were only a couple of women. As I entered the workforce in tech in the early 90s, there were not a lot of women entering with me, and throughout my career I’ve seen many of my colleagues detour to have families and switch careers. Today there are not a lot of senior women in tech around me. The reality is that if the women were not there at the beginning of the journey and along the way on the journey, they are not going to be there toward the end of the journey.
I grew up on a farm and while both of my parents raised me with a strong work ethic, engineering was not part of their life experiences. When I was in high school, I never imagined a career in technology. But then at a career fair I met a women who was in ROTC and an engineer — in the 80s that was a rarity. She shared with me that there were not many women in engineering. I remember her telling me all the cool things that she was doing, and I was intrigued because I wanted to do something that others in my peer group were not doing. If it wasn’t for this woman who encouraged me to pursue a career in engineering, I don’t think my career would have started where it did.
So here’s my challenge to all of us as mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, friends, and leaders to girls and young women: Be an active participant in building the pipeline of future women in tech! Encourage girls to be curious about science, math, and technology. Ask them questions to pique their curiosity, expose them to what you do, suggest going to a science summer camp instead of an arts and crafts camp … the smallest actions can have the biggest impact and make all the difference in a young person’s life. For example, I try to be purposeful in the conversations that I have with my 10-year-old niece, who wants to travel to Mars someday.
In addition to helping to build future talent in tech, we need to encourage one another. The leaders I know who have achieved true long-term success not only know where they are and where they’re going but also where they came from. They understand that they didn’t get here alone. We all need a little help on the journey. It’s important to realize that if we’re going to succeed personally, we need to help one another. If you see another woman struggling, reach out to her — take her to lunch, help her to navigate, be a sounding board, help her solve a problem, give her access to your network. We need to be intentional about pulling other women up with us as we succeed in our careers.
As we celebrate IWD together, think about the women who have helped you in your career or have been a positive influence in any aspect of your life. Take a moment to honor and celebrate these women by calling them, sending an email or reflecting on the impact that they have made in your life. I know that I will be celebrating many women who have helped to shape me into who I am today.