Just could not pass up the opportunity to attend an early morning
session of a “special interest group” at a technical conference.
Group: Women professionals in science and technology
Topic: Big things happen in small groups
Discussions focused on three areas– leadership gap
(assertiveness commitment and ambition), career planning and
goal setting (fears and barriers) and doing it all (work-life
balance and perfectionism).
Our group pursued the third topic and while we all know it is not
possible to do everything to perfection, our behaviors fall back on
our habits both at home and in our career environments. Our
behaviors seem to have a divide where more serious thought is
given to our career environments, where we plan to cross train
and make it so everyone can take a vacation and have a workflow
that is less than 100% utilization. Home and personal life is not
managed in the same fashion– imperfection is allowed, couples
divide duties, some things just don’t get done. Work always enters
our home lives.
Some good thoughts came from Amy who identified with me, as
we were the two outliers in the group (single, unattached mid career
woman and lone wolf guy). Amy pointed out we need to realize
forming and building trustworthy, sharing relationships was key.
She came to me afterwards and thanked me for making a difference
by not trying to attract the spotlight but by shining light on an
unassuming team member (listening and supporting her comments).
Supporting the relationship building is the need to have an “off-button”
for distractors that can interrupt the important relationships in our
Some decisions like starting a family or leaving temporarily or
permanently can never seem to have a “right time”. That is because
we believe it should be thought out logically, when, in fact, it
is an emotional sensation that we support using facts and data.
(and even, after the fact.)
An engineering faculty member at Berkeley and I had a
conversation that women professionals commonly get…
wow, you are an engineering professor at Berkeley you must be
incredibly smart. How did you do it? What was your secret?
I could never do it?
How do you respond, she asked?
We thought together for a while and concluded it was important to
perform an audience analysis to assess if an emotional response would
be effective or an information loaded response would be.
For someone who could not easily relate to the complexities,
telling a story about who was a model or mentor for you and
provided a boost of confidence that you could do it. Then,
relate it to that person rewarding their curiosity in asking.
If it was an audience who could relate to the complexity, we
can be more factual and list that if it were highly structured
situation knowing the rules and being efficient in following
them made a difference. If the situation was complex, we
realize that luck is totally unpredictable and that persistence
and trying many alternatives and learning from failure gets
us to where we are and we probably could have not predicted