September 27, 2016

Is it okay to interrupt women?

Last night, I watch Donald Trump continuously interrupt Hillary. Indeed, by the time the debate was over, Trump had interrupted Clinton 51 times — whereas Clinton had interrupted Trump just 17 times, according to the fact checkers. You could say it is Trump's personality to speak his mind and that he interrupted the men, too, during the Republican debates. 

What was different in last night's debate were the Twitter comments that ensued, such as this one:


Shout out to all the women having stress flashbacks to being yelled over in important meetings


Stacy Marie was just one of the women took to Twitter to complain about how often she is interrupted by men, particularly in the business setting. Decades of research show that women get interrupted more often by both men and women, and that women are often given less credit, or even penalized, for being outspoken.

Last night, these dynamics were on display on a worldwide stage and the reaction was fascinating.

Whether it's in the boardroom, the conference room or in front of TV viewers, interruptions are not only rude, they prevent a speaker from making his or her point, and moving on. At the end of the day, not being heard affects our efficiency, effectiveness and our work life balance.

Men likely are more comfortable interrupting women because they have been raised from day one to believe what they have to say is important. However, women interrupt each other, too. In a blog post on Vox, it was noted that tech startup CEO and linguist Kieran Snyder designed an experiment that found men in tech industry meetings interrupted twice as often as women did, and that men were three times as likely to interrupt women as they were to interrupt other men. When women did interrupt, they interrupted other women 87 percent of the time.

Post debate, I've heard little criticism of Trump for interrupting as much as he did. In fact, Vox points out that Hillary is more likely to be criticized for the way she responded to Trump's interruptions.


I appreciated this tweet:

A President should always interrupt someone by yelling "wrong, wrong" in a microphone.


Don't be naive to think such "wrong, wrong" behavior doesn't go on in workplaces. It does and it needs to stop.

In fact, recently workplace columnist  Rex Hupkke wrote about mansplaining and described the term this way:

"The all-too-frequent instances when a man explains something to a female co-worker in a condescending manner. It often begins with the man interrupting the woman — "Actually …" — or talking over her, all so he can explain something she already understands."

Rex even offered a solution to men:  Stop and think. Before you cut off a female colleague or launch into an explanation of something that needs no explanation, ask yourself: Am I about to mansplain?

I am sure Trump could care less about curbing his mansplaining or his interruptions. It's been an effective tool for him in business. But when our effectiveness and work life balance are at stake, women need to make men more aware of their behavior, whether or not it is intentional, and nudge them to change it.

Of course, let's not let ourselves off the hook either. We have just seen what interruptions look like and it isn't a pretty picture. Let's set the example for men and stop and think before we interrupt other women.

Everyone deserves to be heard. It's time to make that loud and clear.






September 16, 2016

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Suggest We Make Work Life Balance Easier

RuthShould we be working at all hours all the time? Should any professional be at the beck and call of a supervisor or client after he or she leaves the office? These are questions we're going to be asking ourselves more often.

The answers aren't simple. In law or any profession, expectations for customer service usually mean an immediate response. Businesses will need to figure out how to give their professionals the work life balance they want and deserve, and please the customer.

When I saw this interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the National Law Journal, I thought she hit the work life balance concerns right on. She wants to see more action. Most of us do.

"Firms don't seem to be moving that fast to be flexible," Ginsburg said during a conversation with former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson before the D.C. chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

But instead of just complaining, Ginsburg gave solutions, which is why I truly admire this woman.

Despite major advances under the law, as well as new technology that facilitates remote work, law firms “don’t seem to be moving that fast” to allow new parents of both genders to balance work and home life, Justice Ginsburg said at an event on Wednesday in Northern Virginia hosted by the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Ginsburg said women and men at firms "should get together with each other and decide 'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes, and "make it known and illustrate by example that you can have a home life and a work life.Ginsburg gave a great example of how a firm can be flexible.

As an example, Ginsburg said a former law clerk of hers who now has three young children worked out an arrangement with an unnamed law firm to have a three-day work week. "They are delighted with her work," Ginsburg said.

While that's one example, there are others that include men and women. Yes, men and women need to discuss  'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes.  We need to see changes that help both genders be the lawyers or professionals they want to be and have a life outside the office, too.

Ginsburg has reminded us that the struggle for work life balance is real and needs to be addressed. Will firms heed her call to action?


August 29, 2016

How to survive back-to-school as a working parent

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(Sommer Davis and her family/ Photo by Shannon Kaestle)


For years, I've heard people say it takes a village to raise a child. Most working parents will agree with that statement. But I haven't read much on how to build your village. So this week in my Miami Herald column, I set out to help working parents build a support team for a better work life balance.

If you're a mother or father trying to adapt to a new school routine, here is where you should look to build your support team:

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

When the boss is not understanding, try to find co-workers who you can rely on in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.


Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, suggests take time now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the workforce, you and your spouse need to work as a well-functioning team. Today more fathers are helping to make dinner, pick up kids from school, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. For others, family members such as grandparents or aunts are critical to their support team. Don't feel bad asking a family member for help, often they enjoy the time with their young family members.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. "I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: You might want to make your child's teacher part of your team, too.  On back-to-school night, put teachers’ contact information into your phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who you can call for help. Some teachers will allow a helpful child (or teen) to stay in their classrooms after school for a short while.

As this school year kicks off, start now to assemble your team. You may need it sooner than you  think.






August 18, 2016

A Back-to-School Tip for Working Mothers (and Fathers)


                                           Mom on phone


Today, I was interviewing an expert for a back to school article, when she shared a piece of wisdom with me that I wish I had thought of years ago.

She suggests creating a file on your phone with the email or phone number of every person your child comes in contact with during the school day. For example, the file would have the bus driver's number, the transportation department's number, the mother who drives your child to school. It would also have the teacher's contact info and the school's contact info. If you child is in aftercare, it would have the aftercare director's number or one of the care providers. If you child is in extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, the file would have the piano teacher's number or another parent whose child takes lessons the same day with the same teacher. 

The key is ALL the numbers are in ONE place. No need to search around and wonder whether you filed someone's info by first or last name or by topic or some other way. 

If the bus doesn't show up or you need to reach someone to reach your child, NO NEED TO PANIC! Making contact with someone who can help becomes much easier when everything is in one place and at your fingertips.

As much as our phones draw our attention away from our kids if we let them, our phones can be our lifeline when our children need to reach us, or when we need to reach them. 

It's also good to collect phone numbers of your child's friends parents. That could be a separate file on your phone. If you don't know all the parents, use the new school year as the perfect time to get to know them. 

There will be days that unpredictable events with our kids turn our lives upside down. Inevitably those days will be the ones in which we have a big presentation at work or our boss is riding along with us on a sales call. Getting our safety net prepared ahead of time can make all the difference in a working parent's work life balance!

What tips can you share with other working parents who are trying to keep it all together during the school year?


August 16, 2016

How to survive political discussion in the workplace




Your co-worker mentions that he's a big Trump fan and went to the rally over the weekend. You're repulsed but you have to sit next to this guy every day. Do you engage and ask him why the heck he would support a guy like Trump? Do you tell him not to mention politics at work?

Drawing the line between work and politics can get tricky with the November election only months away. With new election developments daily, political discussions in the lunchroom, parking lot and office cubicles are inevitable. So how do you navigate workplace discussion knowing the election will soon be over but your co-worker will sit next to you for months and years to come?

Here are a few ways to approach political conversations at work:

Take a cue from the top. In some offices, managers have made employees remove buttons and stickers on cubicles in support of a candidate, or discouraged workers from political talk on the job. In other workplaces, managers are comfortable with respectful debate about personalities and issues and encourage workers to stay abreast of current events that could affect business.

Think carefully before you speak. Longtime Florida lawmaker Elaine Bloom, now president and CEO of Plaza Health Network, the largest nursing home network in Miami-Dade County, says in her daily interaction with executives and healthcare workers she often gets asked her thoughts on a political issue or candidate. “I have to be very careful,” she says. Sometimes, she will clarify a fact or give her opinion, but make it clear that she doesn’t expect her staff or nursing home residents to agree with her view. Sometimes, she will discourage the conversation if she believes it’s going to create hard feelings. “I’ll say something like, ‘Let’s leave the political discussion for outside the workplace.’ 

Speak up. If you feel bullied or harassed or can’t get your co-worker to stop talking politics, it's time to mention it to a manager. “These conversations could drag on for hours and become a productivity issue. When voices are raised, threats come out, or it becomes a distraction, a manager needs to step in," says Edward Yost, director of employee relations for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Agree to disagree.  If your colleague mentions he supports Marco Rubio for Senate and you despise Rubio, you may want to give your perspective but agree to disagree. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to change someone's political opinions so the best approach is to verbalize that you don't see eye to eye and that it's okay to have perspectives. The key is to stop the conversation before it gets personal.  

Think long term. If someone sees a bumper sticker on someone’s car or finds out a colleague is campaigning for a candidate, it's easy to make a snap judgment about a co-worker’s beliefs and even cast someone as prejudice. But remember, you are going to be working together after the election and it’s not smart to damage a cooperative working relationship.

Use caution on social media. If a supervisor touts his political views on Facebook where a staff member can see it, that could be considered harassment, says April Boyer, an employment attorney at K & L Gates in Miami . “It’s possible the employee could come in and complain. These are complicated issues to work through.”

For more on talking politics at work, read my column in The Miami Herald.


June 21, 2016

Tragic death shows why work life balance is important

As a beer lover, my attention was immediately drawn to the recent headline in The Miami Herald:

Founding brewer for MIA Beer Company killed in car crash

I continued on to read the article:

A well-known brewer in Miami’s craft beer scene was killed in a car crash over the weekend.

Piero Rodriguez, one of MIA Beer Company’s founding brewers, was killed in an accident early Sunday, owner Eddie Leon confirmed. He was 34.

“We are completely devastated,” Leon said.

And then, there it was, the paragraph that stood out to me as a warning for anyone who thinks excessive work can't kill you:
Rodriguez had been working double shifts, Leon said, brewing in the morning and often tending bar at the brewery at night to make extra money. Friends feared it might have been exhaustion that forced him to lose control of his late-model Acura on Northwest 33rd Street at the tight curve in the 8900 block, just minutes down the street from the brewery. He struck a light pole, wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Kendall Regional Medical Center at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Clearly, the ironic part is that Piero was doing a job he loved -- he was just doing it too much.

His friends and peers told The Miami Herald It was common to find him at the brewery doing the laborious, scrubbing tanks with punk rock blaring in the background while his son tagged along.

He was living the life he always wanted, his brother Ruy said, albeit cut far too short.

“People should be more positive,” Ruy said, “and pursue their dreams like he did.”

And there, right there, lies the fine line. While it is admirable to pursue your dream and do a job you love, everyone needs balance. Death by overwork is real and it can take your life in different ways. There are health reasons why work life balance is important and repercussions for thinking you can work a little longer or harder before taking time off. Over the years, I've written about people who have dropped dead of exhaustion right at their desks.

According to the Herald, the last thing Piero Rodriguez said as he left work late Saturday night was how much he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his young son.

He would never make it home.

That's a cautionary lesson for all of us. Sending my prayers to Piero's family....
Piero 1

June 02, 2016

Letter to Mom at Graduation

Just last year, I was one of the thousands of parents of a child who was graduating from high school and moving on to the next phase. Having worked so hard for so many years to maintain work life balance, the transition felt strange -- and difficult. If you're experiencing that right now, know that you are not alone.

Today, my guest blogger is Raffi Bilek, a former teenager and current parent of school-age children.  He is a family counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, where he offers parenting workshops and counseling to parents, teens, and families. He loves his mom and wrote a letter to her from a teenage perspective. I enjoyed reading it and thought you would too.


Me & Mom

(Raffi and his mom, 15 years ago)


Hi Mom,

Thanks for coming to this meeting.  I know you’re really busy with other projects but I’m glad we were able to take time out for this.

I figure the best way to do this is just be direct.  Mom, I’m downsizing.  Now that my corporation, Me, Inc., has been around nearly a decade and a half, it’s really become clear that we don’t need the complex management system we’ve had all this time.  You and Dad have been great managers, no doubt, but at this point, it’s really overkill.  In the past you’ve taken on a lot of different assignments around here, which have obviously shifted with the company’s needs over time, and just aren’t so relevant anymore.

Feeding and changing was a big one when we were just a tiny startup. Remember those days? Novice mistakes and setbacks, long hours, few days off if any… you sure put in a lot of time and effort, and I definitely want to appreciate what you did for the company back then, Mom.

Then there was scheduling and logistics for many years around playdates, school, baseball practice, dentist appointments.  You’ve certainly survived a lot of conflicts between the staff of Me, Inc., and your upper management team. And let’s not forget your expert direction of Me, Inc.’s Food Services Unit, your leadership in running the infirmary, and your clever efficiency improvements in areas ranging from Tantrum Weatherization to Homework Completion to Household Budgeting.

Yep, you’ve worn many hats around here.  But the point is, it’s just becoming less and less necessary.  As the founder and president of Me, Inc., I see the need for your skills dropping off as we move ahead into the bright future of adolescence.  So, like I said, I’m downsizing. I’m afraid that, effective immediately, you and Dad are no longer managers at Me, Inc.

I know this comes as kind of a shock to you, but in truth, the signs have been all over the place for some time now.  You’ve gotten a bit behind the times and have failed to notice the shifting winds that started in the pre-teen years.  You sometimes treat me like a startup instead of the burgeoning corporation that I am, and it has kind of gotten in the way of progress.

Look, it’s not as bad as it seems.  After all, this is really what you’ve always wanted – an independent, growing business that isn’t tied to your every move, that can function and even expand even when you’re not at the office.  I’m sure you’ve had retirement in the back of your mind all along (even if you thought it was in the distant future).

And, just as importantly, please note that I said we no longer need your skills.  But the truth is – and the guys in the back room will kill me if they ever heard me saying this - Me., Inc. really still needs you.  We need what you have to offer – your knowledge, your years of experience, and not least your moral support.

So, think of this as a door opening, not a door closing.  Take some time off to come to terms with being laid off.  I know it isn’t easy.  But when you’re ready to shift roles, I’ll tell you what – Me, Inc. really needs a good consultant or two.  We need someone who can help guide the company from the sidelines while taking a much more hands-off approach.  Someone who knows the company inside and out.  Someone who really cares about the company’s growth and success. 

I think you’ll be great for the job.




May 06, 2016

Lessons from Mom

When I was young, my mother wore red as often as possible. She had a red car and a red front door. Red was her favorite color. Now as a mother myself, I realize there was much more to her color choice.

My mother was a single mother of three who worked as a teacher and spent most of her time around children. She balanced work and family long before there were modern conveniences like online shopping and virtual assistants.

I knew other mothers stayed home, but even though my mother worked, she was always there to pick me up from school or a dance and take me to weekend activities. If I was sick and couldn't go to school, I stayed home alone. If I wanted my clothes clean for school, I washed them. If I wanted lunch, I packed it. She made the working mother thing seem easy.

From growing up with a single, working mother, I learned a few lessons that serve me well today.

  1. Make your kids help. I make my kids do dishes, help with cooking, make their beds…all the things my mom made me do. It teaches them responsibility and takes some of the household chores off my plate.
  2. Be organized. My mother, a teacher, shopped during the summer for Christmas, birthdays, and emergencies. She had gifts in her closet at all times so we were never caught off guard should an invitation come our way.
  3. Savor Sunday night. Sunday nights were quiet time in our house. My mother paid the bills and planned dinners for the week. We did homework, read books and went to bed early. It helped to start the week from a place of peace.
  4. Insist on family dinners. We had all kinds of activities during the week but we knew to be home for dinner. Today, I credit that family time with how close I am with my siblings.
  5. Consider school as important as work. As my mother headed to her workplace, she told us our jobs were to go to school and do well. We took that responsibility seriously and today I tell my children the same thing.
  6. Only spend what you have. My mother only had a Sears credit card. That’s it. Everywhere else she paid cash. Money was tight but mom would not let us buy a thing unless we had the cash to pay for it. Otherwise, we would do without. I try to abide by the same rule and have stayed out of debt.
  7. Don't feel guilty for "me time". On Saturday night, my mother would go out and we would have a sitter until my older sister could babysit. It was my mother's time to do whatever she wanted as a woman, rather than a mom. Taking time for herself was how my mom kept her sanity and how I now keep mine.

While my mom still loves the color red, she doesn’t wear it as often today. She no longer needs to convince herself that she has power and determination to survive as a single mom. She has done her job well as a mother, grandmother and role model.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother and all of the other moms out there. You rock!


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My mother and stepfather both in red




April 29, 2016

Why Meternity Leave is Ridiculous

Looks like author Meghann Foye sparked a conversation — and a controversy — with the release of her new novel "Meternity."

Meghann thinks people without kids should get an extended break from work, just like their co-workers who go on maternity or paternity leave. She speaks from experience. Years ago, Foye took her own self-financed meternity leave to kick start her writing career. I understand where Meghann is coming from. Burnout is a big problem in this country and childless workers are at risk because the perception is they are available all the time.  Everyone deserves "me time" which is why many workplaces have vacation days and Paid Time Off. .

But Americans aren't even taking the paid vacation time coming to them. Every year they leave tons of paid vacation days unused out of fear for their jobs, or too big a workload or all kinds of other reasons.  So are people going to take three months off unpaid for meternity leave? Let's be real, they most certainly are not.

If you have the desire and some savings, whether you are a parent or a single employee, you can take meternity leave any time you want. It's called quitting your job, regrouping and forging a new path that gives you the work life balance you seek. In that sense, meternity leave already is available to all workers.

On the flip side, what's going on in this country with maternity leave is pitiful.

Right now, 1 out of 4 mothers only takes two weeks off to have a kid, despite the toll on their bodies and the sleepless nights. Why? They can't afford to take more than that because our nation has no national policy on paid parental leave. Let's focus on getting that first. Let's help parents get the time they need to bond with their newborn, establish a routine and get ready for the balancing act that lies ahead. That will make a difference in our communities and for our families.  

What are your thoughts on meternity leave? Is it an insult to new parents? If you could afford it, would you take it?


April 22, 2016

Yes, you can volunteer and have work life balance


Like most working parents, I run around most of the time like a chicken with my head cut off. I want to do so much but I always feel like I could do more, especially for my community. Well, it's National Volunteer Month so it's a great time to take inventory of your life and see how you might be able to give back. 

When I think of role models who give back, Tere Blanca immediately comes to mind. Tere is one of the few women in commercial real estate who has a proven track record and is well respected by men and women in her field. She is founder, president, and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, the leading independent full-service commercial real estate brokerage in South Florida. She's a working mother AND she has held prestigious positions as past chair of The Beacon Council and member of the Board of Governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce among all kinds of other positions in the community. Tere's company encourages volunteerism among its employees by underwriting the costs of charitable work, donating money to organizations her employees are involved with, and providing paid time off to volunteer.

Today, Tere is my guest blogger and I'm thrilled to have her weigh in on how she balances work, life, and volunteering. She can be reached at


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Tere's Motto: Volunteerism Drives Business Success

At my company, our passion for social causes has proved one of our most important business differentiators and drivers, helping establish our business in the midst of the 2009 economic downturn and propelling our sustained growth.

The game-changing volunteering I’m referring to goes beyond writing checks, sitting on boards, and occasionally attending galas and events. It involves identifying causes near to our hearts that we are personally passionate about, rolling up our sleeves, and generously donating our time and talents to meaningfully advance the organizations' missions.

I founded the firm on a non-negotiable pillar of giving back, encouraging volunteerism among all brokers and employees by underwriting charitable work, donating financial resources to the organizations we support, and providing paid time off to volunteer. This linked us with our community, giving us a close feel for its pulse, and enabling us to forge strong partnerships and networks while engaging on deep, human levels.

I did this simply because I wanted to give; I later realized it would drive incredible success, with some major national clients selecting us in part for our deep local community ties, having witnessed first-hand our abilities while involved in volunteer work or leading the charge to positively impact our community.

Another essential driver of business success is the ability to attract and retain talent, which also is enhanced through corporate social responsibility. Research shows most employees consider “contributing to society” indispensable for an ideal job. Millennials who participate in workplace volunteer activities are more satisfied and loyal.

Despite running a demanding business and raising a family, I have been able to find ample time to pour my heart into causes that deeply resonate with me. Often, I am asked, “How do you do it?”

Here is some of my best advice:

First, take a deep look within yourself and identify causes that you are truly passionate about. Identify the best organizations and opportunities that allow you to engage at a meaningful level in supporting those causes. Before committing, get to know the organizations and their boards well upfront to confirm there is a fit. As part of that process, develop an accurate understanding of the time commitment and expectations involved.

Next, understand how much time you can reasonably contribute every month and week. For first-timers, it is best to start small and build on your success. It is better to make meaningful contributions to one or two organizations than to join six boards and do a minimal amount of non-impactful work for each. This also avoids over-committing and letting folks down when you realize you cannot attend all the board meetings or have to withdraw from the organization.

Then, when you have decided what organizations you want to join, develop a written plan for your involvement. If you have marketing or public relations support at your company, it is helpful to engage their expertise in this process. Obtain a list of board meetings and key activities upfront and bake them into your calendar.

Most importantly,  make sure your team at work and your family at home are well aware of these commitments and ready to support you when needed. Proper planning also can help you identify non-essential activities that may be delegated or cut from your schedule. Something as simple as ordering in dinner rather than preparing a meal can free up your evening. Also, do not be shy to ask for support from your family and co-workers; after all, community is a fabric woven of individual lives and efforts. When we all do our part, no matter how seemingly small or trivial, the whole is strengthened and bettered.

I find it inexcusable that South Florida ranks last among 51 major metros for its volunteer rate. It also is bad business. For example, when we support City Year Miami’s mission to help keep students in school and on track to graduate, ready for college and careers, we’re building a better tomorrow for everyone: one with a broader talent pool, lower crime rates that result in lower insurance costs, and a society that is better equipped to attract business investment, fuel economic growth and enjoy a higher quality of life.

To paraphrase Horace Mann, “Doing nothing for our community is the undoing of business.”

Photos below are Tere in action!

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