April 13, 2016

Daycare costs more than college?

Daycare

 

 

When my daughter was young, I hired a series of nannies until I found one who was reliable.

It was an ordeal.

I wanted so desperately to leave my daughter with someone who I could trust. I also wanted so desperately to keep my job, which in the news business meant unpredictable hours. To land the perfect nanny -- one that didn't fall asleep on the job or show up an hour late -  I painfully forked over more than half of my paycheck.

So, it's not at all surprising to me that other working parents are desperate to find high quality, low-cost child care. When I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today about the high cost of childcare, it disgusted me, but didn't really surprise me.

In nearly half the country(23 states), it’s now more expensive to educate a 4-year-old in preschool than an 18-year-old in college, according to the Wall Street Journal. The largest disparity between the cost to attend day care and the cost to attend college resides in Florida, my home state, according to Economic Policy Institute data.The average child care costs in Florida are $7,668 a year, making it 73 percent more expensive to care for a 4-year-old in Florida than for a student to attend college.

“High-quality child care is out of reach for many families,” said Economic Policy Institute research assistant Tanyell Cooke. “This crisis is not limited to low-income families, nor is it unique to certain parts of the country. It affects everyone, in every state.”

It's not just full time childcare that's costly. If you're a working parent who needs after-school care, get ready to pay a lot of money for a few hours of supervision.

Costs have risen to the point where parents need to do the math and consider child care costs when offered a salary to determine if taking a job is worth it. And, if you're a parent who works off hours, like an evening shift or a Saturday, finding after hours child care can be a huge scramble and an expensive endeavor. A blog post I wrote many years ago about where to find after hours child care remains one of the most well read.

For single mothers the cost of daycare is a GIANT problem when women are paid 75 cents for every dollar men are paid. I wonder how many bosses have considered that when doling out raises or making job offers.

What can be done about rising childcare costs?

Some ideas are pay parents bigger salaries, subsidize the cost of childcare, open more government-funded childcare centers, encourage more businesses to build onsite childcare centers.

I am sure there are more possibilities. It's time our country considers what those solutions could be.

April 12, 2016

Mompreneur? How to launch a product and pull off work life balance

Today my guest blogger is a Latina mother, Priska Diaz, who came to America at 17 from Peru, not knowing a word of English. She worked three jobs to put herself through college, and then earned a  master’s degree in packaging design from Pratt. 

When she had her first child, Priska attempted to breastfeed and after a week was told to supplement with bottle feeding. From there, an idea grew!  Priska walked the floors and streets (and eyed the ceiling) while her newborn son screamed with gas after bottle-feeding. Her infant so became colicky, she spent years redesigning the baby bottle, using the principle of a syringe so there is not a drop of air inside, and a patented nipple to avoid breast confusion. The result? A million sold, and they are just hitting Babies R Us this month.

I asked Priska to tell us what it's like to secure funding, launch a product, raise children, and keep your sanity. Here is her story:

 

Cropped

After waiting together for the bus at the corner with my son Carlton, now 8, and Adriana, 7, and reviewing in my head the schedule for getting two kids to and from school/doctors appointments/playdates, I run to Home Depot to prepare for the afternoon.

My chaotic life: Grabbing liquid nails, screws, six-inch planks of MDF, I run home to use my tiny electric handheld saw to turn the lot into a radiator shelf, painted white to match the kitchen. I also make a pit stop at the Stop N Shop to buy frozen pizza dough and corn starch.

Today’s after school activities: making pizza dough, and homemade Play Doh using corn starch, and of course, making a big mess on the kitchen table. I assign the kids tasks while I run to my laptop to communicate with the Babies R Us buyer, do my invoicing and process orders. I love arts and crafts. I came to New York from Peru when I was 17 and spoke no English, worked three jobs to put myself through college and got a masters in packaging design from Pratt, spending six years on assorted “craft” projects.

The idea: At 32, when I had my son Carlton, I got out the Krazy Glue, rubber bands, and plastic bits and created my first Bare Baby Bottle prototype, giving birth to Bittylab shortly after. Unmedicated childbirth was easier than balancing work and children.  But my business life would not work without the chaos nearby, without being able to wear my workout clothes all day and nap on the sofa between craft projects and dinner.

Carlton’s colic inspired the business. The pediatrician told me he was dehydrated and undernourished and I’d have to supplement breastfeeding with a bottle. Then he cried, and cried as colic became a daily (and nightly) norm. I thought about how syringes don’t let in any air, and used that as my guiding principle to create the Bare Bottle, which lets a baby draw in milk in the only completely airless suction process on the market. Then I redesigned the nipple so that a baby has to latch on like he does on the breast. Because having suffered through his nipple confusion, and preference for a bottle, I wanted to find a solution.

The first step: I showed up at the biggest retailer in the baby category and met with the senior buyer who, after seeing how Bare worked, raved about the bottle’s uniqueness and innovation. She encouraged us (my husband and I) to get it into production. ASAP. It took three and a half years to develop a working prototype. Molders in the US turned us down. In 2010, when Carlton was three and my daughter Adriana was two, Bittylab became my full-time job. I filed patents and did the ABC trade show. The prototype attracted a lot of attention. Between 2011 and 2016, we had 15 meetings with Babies “R” Us who understood the bottle and loved it.

Funding: A small business loan from Community Capital allowed us to place the order so Bare bottles made it to 185 Babies “R” Us stores in February 2016, meeting the deadline. 

 

Fastforward: Now I ship to 200 Babies R Us stores (hence the weekly conversations with the buyer), but am still on the corner at 3 p.m. waiting for that school bus. Launching a product took seven years of perseverance and belief in myself when a lot of male product engineers scoffed.

Learn as you go: We wanted to keep the warehouse in NY, and tried DIY distribution. When the first 20-foot container showed up in our Elmsford office we realized we didn’t have the necessary tools and equipment for a fast unload and I ended up climbing into the truck tossing boxes to my husband, which he put away one at a time inside “The Lab,” as I call our office. It was overwhelming and literally backbreaking. That’s when we found a California warehouse equipped to palletize and shrink-wrap and ship the boxes wholesale.

Work life balance:  I schedule all my business appointments from 9 to 3 as much as possible. We’ve just sold $1 million in retail sales. The goal is one million units.  As Bittylab grows, I plan to hire talent that can take the business to the next level, at the same time it will give me more time to spend with my kids and family.  

 

Bare_BRU

 

April 11, 2016

If Birth Order Affects Success, Am I Doomed?

                                   

IMG_3292
(Me and my siblings!)

 

 

Yesterday was National Sibling Day and my Facebook feed was filled with friends posting adorable photos of themselves with their siblings.  Seeing the photos made me think about my siblings, my slot in the family, our personalities and our lives, and of course, our work life balance.

I am a middle child, squeezed between an older sister and younger brother. I am also the sibling who wants everyone to get along. I guess you can say I'm a collaborator and a peacekeeper. So, what does that mean for me as a business woman and working mother? 

According to Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, whether you have siblings, how many you have and where you fall in the hierarchy can play an important role in the work you love, the career you pursue and how successful you’ll be. It could even affect how you balance work and life.

Kluger says middle children -- like me -- take longer to find a career they love and in which they can thrive. Sometimes, we even get depressed about it. On the upside, we tend to build bigger networks and excel at relationship management—connecting, negotiating, brokering peace between differing sides. Kluger says middle siblings may not wind up as the corporate chiefs or the comedians, but whatever they do, they’re likely to do it more collegially and agreeably—and, as a result, more successfully—than other siblings. 

Kluger is right. I'm not a CEO, but I have found success as a writer on my own terms. However, because I'm the agreeable middle child,  I think work life balance is more difficult for me. I'm the sibling who takes on what others don't want to do, just to keep peace, such juggling my own children's needs with caregiving for aging family members.

Life is different for first borns, the oldest children. Kluger says they are statistically likelier to be CEOs, senators and astronauts—and to make more money than their younger siblings. He points out that first borns tend to run their companies conservatively—improving things by, say, streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes and generally making sure the trains run on time. From what I've seen, first borns run their households the same way as they run their organizations. These are the superwomen who make juggling work and family look easy.

Kluger says last borns, the youngest children, are risk takers. They are more inclined to be rebellious, funnier, more intuitive and more charismatic than their older siblings. Multiple studies have shown that the baby of the family is likelier than other siblings to be a writer or artist or especially a comedian—Stephen Colbert, the youngest of 11 siblings, is a great example of this. From my perspective, the youngest child stresses least about work life balance because he or she is more likely to ask for help -- and get it.

So, what do you think about birth order and odds of success? Do you fit Kluger's stereotypes? How do you think your birth order may be affecting your career and life choices and your work life balance?

April 07, 2016

Should You Hit "Send" at midnight? The unwritten rules of email

 

                                    Bed

 

It's close to midnight and I'm still awake. Not only that, but I've broken all my own rules about logging on late at night. The house is quiet, everyone but me is asleep and I'm feeling extremely productive. Maybe that coffee I drank after dinner wasn't decaf like I thought it was.

I have just composed a response to an email I was trying to get to all day. But now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I send it?  On one hand, if I do, I can go to sleep knowing it's off my plate. On the other hand, it may look odd to the receiver that I'm working at midnight. It may even look like I have no work life balance.

SendUgh....what to do? What are the rules, anyway?

Recently, I spoke on a panel to an audience of PR professionals (mostly women). The topic of late night email came up. Most of the audience admitted to getting back on their computers after dinner or after their kids are in bed -- at least a few nights a week. Some of them admitted, they too struggle with the etiquette of late night email.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, one in two workers in the information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services sectors — industries that historically keep traditional 9 to 5 work hours — check or respond to work emails outside of work. Let's add journalist and publicist to that list. Heck, let's add teachers, lawyers, doctors, business executives and most other professions.

However, there are people who don't believe in taking work home. Some get annoyed by late-night work email and look down on the sender. These people want clear boundaries between work and home and they don't appreciate others who break those boundaries. My husband believes sending late night emails creates an impression you're disorganized. 

I noticed working mothers tend to be okay with sending emails in the evening hours. They understand that "doing it all" might mean sending an email at 10, 11 or even midnight.

In a recent column, Sue Shellenbarger at the WSJ pointed out that your boundary style and tolerance for late night email may depend on the kind of job you hold or your life stage. She noted that some people celebrate the option to log on at night as freedom, a sign of success in balancing home and work. For others, it feels like the opposite of freedom—a burdensome intrusion on their home life.

A banking executive told me she often composes late night emails but waits until the morning to hit send. I think her approach may be the way to go. I see 11 p.m. as the cutoff time to hit send. After that time, I am going to take the banker's approach and wait until the morning.

To be clear, I don't think anyone should expect a response to an email sent after 7 p.m.  But others will disagree. Some clients, co-workers and bosses expect a quick response, regardless of the time the email is sent. Unfortunately, this "always on" attitude is the direction business is going.

What are your thoughts on late night email? Do you think there's a reason or hard stop time to hold back on hitting send? Are you put off when someone sends you a late night email?

 

April 06, 2016

Shh....This is the secret to work life balance!

                                           Walking

 

 

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Feeling like you want to improve your work life balance?

I'm going to share a secret that will help. The key to balancing work and life is.....take a walk!

Walking can fuel creative thought. It can provide bonding time with your spouse, child or friend. It can introduce exercise into your life at no cost. It can help you wind down for a better night's sleep. It can be a much needed relief from stress.

Today is National Walking Day, and many cities are participating. The American Heart Association introduced the annual event about 10 years ago because it felt people spend too much time sitting in front of screens at work and home.

Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day can offset inactivity and reduce the risk of heart disease. And, here is some really good news: The New York Times points out that research show walkers are most likely burning more calories than they think. 

It doesn't matter if you're walking outside or on a treadmill, a study by the American Psychological Association found walking improves the generation of novel ideas. The brain boost from walking even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after they finish walking. So, during the workday, if you hit a creative block or simple can't figure out how to resolve a problem you're facing, take a walk out to your car and around the building. The answer just may come to you.

Even the most time-pressed among us can squeeze a short walk into his or her day. Walk around the block before you head to work or get out and walk through your lunch break. At your next business meeting,instead of sitting in a stuffy meeting room, suggest walking around the office instead. Chances are it will probably be a more productive meeting. 

A few nights a week, my husband and I take a walk around the neighborhood with our dog. We leave our phones at home. It's become our alone time to plan our weekends, discuss our daily challenges and share our life goals. I really think it's been a big boost to our marriage. 

Lots of my friends love their fitbits or other activity trackers. But I am resisting getting caught up in counting my steps or making walking a chore. To me, it's all about decompressing or bonding. 

So, I'm suggesting you walk your way to a better work life balance. It's possible and today is a great day to start!

April 05, 2016

Exhausted by boarding time? Here's how to prepare for take off

                                       Take off

 

 

Recently as I prepared for my spring vacation, I found myself with tons to get done. I grabbed the mail and newspaper. Then, I began paying bills, cleaning out my fridge and responding to as many work emails as I could get to.

I always like to tackle my to-do list before I leave to ensure a more relaxing vacation. But the long, frenetic days leading up to take off are exhausting. I understand why a recent survey by Wakefield on behalf of Hilton Garden Inn revealed 71 percent of women would clone themselves to achieve everything they need to get done in a day.

Many Americans leave up to $52.4 billion worth of vacation days unused each year. But time off can be key to work life balance. In particular, a little bit of preparation can go a long way to ensuring you actually enjoy the vacation days you worked so hard to earn. Over many years of writing about work life balance, I have asked businesswomen who travel often for their careers to share simple rituals and tested time-savers to make travel easier.

 

If you plan to travel this spring, here are a few tips you might find as helpful as I do:



  1. Get sleep. The night before traveling, many of us have the urge to stay up late trying to get things done. I set a bedtime the night before take off and stick to it. Truth be told, I’m cranky when I don’t get a good night sleep and I want to start my journey pumped for adventure.
  2. Prepare for an easy exit.  The night before traveling, I put my suitcases by the front door along with a list of what I need to do before I walk out the door. That includes packing my phone charger, feeding the fish, turning off the lights etc.  Creating that list allows me to get out the door quickly and creates peace of mind.
  3. Make a playlist. Before I leave on a trip, I make myself a “wind down” playlist on my iPod. When I travel, I often have a lot on my mind (places to go, people to see). My playlist allows me to soothe myself to sleep on a plane, lull myself into a dreamy state in a hotel room or relax a bit if my flight is delayed. James Taylor is my go-to artist for calming tunes.
  4. Download apps. There are lots of apps that make travel easier and keep waiting time at airports at minimal such as those that offer restaurant suggestions, give updates on flight status and offer easy check-in at hotels. CityMaps2Go is one of my favorite travel apps because it allows you to preload city maps onto your phone so you don’t need an Internet connection to find your way around.
  5. Make an exercise plan. Traveling can be tough on the waistline but if you plan ahead you can fit some exercise time into your schedule. Look over your proposed itinerary to block out 20 to 30 minutes to go to the hotel gym or for a short run. If that’s too much time to dedicate on vacation, there are a variety of free apps such as Wahoo Fitness’s seven minute workout, which you can easily do in your room. Perhaps right before brushing your teeth.

 

As a new member of the HGI Bright Minds team I’m excited to share work/life balance tips with all the superwomen out there to help make their lives easier. For more tips, be sure to follow me on social media and join the conversation at #HGIBrightIdeas.

March 31, 2016

Why women will get equal pay and who we will thank for it

Women are capable of achieving amazing feats, and for centuries we've done it without recognition. But now, we're achieving way too much to do it without equal pay.

In the last few months, female voices are getting louder, the discontent over the gender wage gap is getting stronger and we're rallying the way we did decades ago when we wanted the opportunity to vote in America. Today, I woke up to learn that five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Women soccer players want equal pay and they should get it. It's an awesome goal.

Soccer2
 

The soccer players' lawsuit comes only weeks afters the subject of equal pay in tennis grabbed headlines. It started with awful comments by BNP Paribas Opentournament CEO Raymond Moore said female players in the Women’s Tennis Association “ride on the coattails of the men.” He followed up by suggesting that women should “go down every night on [their] knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore has since issued an official apology for his “erroneous” comments that were in “poor taste.” But Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player, who won on the men’s finals this weekend, added more fuel to the fire, saying that men should “fight for more” money because their matches have more spectators that those played by women.

Serena Williams, wasn't going to take that and fired back, saying “I think Venus, myself, a number of players—if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister—I couldn’t even bring up that number,” she added.

SerenaSerena got her point across. Moore took so much heat for his comments about women's pay that he announced he was stepping down as CEO of the tournament.

Outside of the sports world, the call for fair pay has cropped up in other professions. In my Miami Herald column yesterday, I wrote about young female lawyers in Florida surveyed by the Florida Bar who complained of inequities in compensation in the legal industry. Their collective voices are bringing attention to the issue in the legal community.

And then there is the attention Jennifer Lawrence has brought to equal pay in Hollywood for actresses. In a widely read essay Jennifer addressed wage gap in Hollywood, which was made explicitly clear to her after the Sony hacking scandal revealed she was paid less than her male co-stars in "American Hustle."  She wrote that she wasn't so much upset with Sony as she was with herself, believing she "failed as a negotiator." She attributed this failure to "an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'" 

Her piece sparked not only sparked discussion, it launched the Women Entertaining Change movement in JlawHollywood in which actresses and female directors are speaking out about fair pay and opportunities for women. The Today Show has been highlighting outspoken women in Hollywood and their demands for an equal playing field.

Women may have gotten the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same type of work, but today, women are still paid, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, that pay gap is even wider. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, intended to restore and improve on equal pay law.

Yet, women still experience pay inequality across the board -- whether you're Hollywood's , a clerk in a retail store or a businesswoman.

My mother's generation went mostly for jobs that were set aside for women. My generation fought to ascend into careers that had been off limits and we're still fighting to get the leadership positions in businesses that we think we deserve. Now come the millennial women and they assume they are going to be business leaders, law firm partners, world renowned athletes and Oscar winning actresses --  and they want to be paid equally for it. They are speaking out about it -- loudly. 

I believe they will be heard.

Not because the men want to hear them, but because they no longer can afford not to hear them. These women are their daughters, their wives, their bosses.They are smart, competent, and increasingly well educated and think big. They are saving lives, directing corporate strategy, winning sports events, bringing audiences to the movie theaters, representing litigants, discovering cures and inspiring the next generation of women who will make a difference in the world.

These young women see that they are sacrificing as much as men and working just as much and they want to be appreciated for it. Not with praise or trophies but with equal treatment and compensation.

Their voices are loud. Their strategies are targeted. Their actions are creating dialogue. I believe the time is now and equal pay is in their grasp. 

 

                                            Equal

March 30, 2016

How I overcame fear and improved my work life balance

As a young girl, every time the mention of skiing came up, my mother told me about how my father and my aunt both had broken a leg while learning the sport. So, while I found the idea of learning how to ski intriguing, I was too fearful to try it. I had convinced myself I had no interest in skiing.

This spring break, friends invited my family to join them on a ski vacation. Learning to ski is something that has always been on my husband's bucket list. So, I convinced my husband it was time for us to "go for  it." Off we went on a ski vacation with our youngest son.

Now, I won't go so far as to claim I mastered the sport. But I tried it, and I didn't break any bones. As small children whizzed effortlessly past me, I stayed calm and focused. I even discovered I liked skiing. To me that's a victory!

Typically, I am the reluctant one who wants to do something safe on vacation, or stay close to home. When my husband proposes adventures, I hesitate, even though I know in the back of my mind that breaking out of my comfort zone will be a good reprieve from life's daily stressors. Now, I am more willing to try something new.

Conquering fear is crucial for work life balance. Fear -- particularly fear that we won't be able to maintain a work life balance - often holds us back from taking promotions, accepting new jobs, having children and taking vacations. 

This morning, I happened upon a blog post about overcoming fear by Neil Pasricha, the director of the Institute for Global Happiness and author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation.

I particularly liked this tip he provided: Before you do anything, you have to feel like you can do it first—and then you have to actually want to do it second. You place action in front of capability and motivation. You put do it before can do it and want to do itTurns out, it’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.

Pasricha suggests we apply the "action leads to motivation" approach to a personal or career goal such as running a marathon, giving a big presentation or writing a novel.

I have a entirely differently outlook since I returned from skiing. I won't let the fear of what can go wrong give me stress or stop me from tackling activities on my bucket list. I know I won't be winning any Olympic medals for my skiing prowess, but gliding down a mountain slowly has its reward, too.

IMG_1403
 

 

 

March 29, 2016

5 Ways to Overcome Work Life Balance Obstacles

Some professions are more demanding than others. Law is one of those demanding professions. It can be particularly challenging for young attorneys who want to prove themselves, but also want a life outside the practice of law.

In a new Florida Bar survey of young women lawyers, one female attorney complained her partners had no understanding of work life balance or her need to pick up a sick child from school. "Too many male partners  have stay at home wives who don't understand that I have to do the same things their wives do while also working."

Another female attorney suggested firms entirely reinvent their culture to respect singles who want a personal life. Both are valid reasons why work life balance concerns need addressing.

Today, my guest bloggers are  Leslie R. Pollack and Christina M. Himmel, associates at Kluger Kaplan in Miami. The two women have some great suggestions for lawyers or anyone struggling to overcome work life balance challenges:

 

 

Leslie Pollack
(Leslie Pollack)          

This is 2016. It is a year where we could witness Hillary Clinton become the first female President of the United States. It is a time where women have ostensibly shattered whatever glass ceiling may have existed in the past. Yet, despite the perceived progress for women, there are still obstacles to overcome, including work-life balance.

For young women lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging for a multitude of reasons. Inequality in pay, respect, and advancement are among the issues confronting young women lawyers. According to a recent survey conducted by the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, 43% of young women attorneys have experienced gender bias.

One of the survey participants said that she left a job because she “was told by the managing partner that [she] did not have to worry about making money and moving ahead because [she] would get married one day and will not have to worry about living expenses."

 

Christina Himmel-1
(Christina Himmel)

 

More than a quarter of the female lawyers surveyed reported that they resigned from a position due to lack of advancement, employer insensitivity, and lack of work-life balance.

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for a young woman lawyer—and young lawyers generally—is the expectation of being accessible and “on call” 24/7. When the partners were our age and they left for the day, they left. Because of the ease of technology, we're never really away from office as long as we have our phones. 

While 24/7 access may seem overwhelming, here are a few tips to keep everything in perspective and help maintain that sought after work-life balance:

1.     Establish boundaries. For example, when you get home from work you may decide not to check your emails for the first hour so you can spend uninterrupted quality time with your family. On the weekends, you might look at your phone and address an issue with a quick email saying you will handle the matter first thing Monday. That way, you are appeasing your employer but still maintaining a level of balance

2.     Stick to your plan. Don’t get discouraged if you have a week where work completely infringes on your personal life.  Work-life balance is a process and work demands often are cyclical. Ride the cycle and keep your eye on the big picture rather than becoming frustrated by the work life balance challenge going on in the moment.

3.     Take time for yourself. Whether you like exercising or traveling, be sure you make time to pursue your interests outside the practice of law. It's always easy when work for a partner who is understanding and takes family life seriously. Make an effort to convey that personal time is important to you and that if if one suffers, the other will too. 

4.     Create your own definition of success. Success looks different to everyone so it is important to establish your own personal career goals and pursue them. For one person, success might be billing 2,500 hours and taking the quickest track to partner. For another person, success might mean doing well at their job and being someone who the client comes to for advice, but not necessarily being the first one in and last one out.

5. Have a work life conversation. Don't be afraid to discuss flexible work options with a law partner or manager. One of the great advantages of technology is the ability to leave the office at a reasonable time, go meet friends or family for dinner, and then finish a pending assignment later in the evening from the comfort of your own home.

While modern technology has certainly changed the way we work, it has also opened the door to benefits like flexible schedules and the ability to work from any location. For young  lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging, but also quite doable.

March 26, 2016

Michelle Obama on sexism: Can you relate?

 

Are the obstacles for women leaders around the world real? And, if so, what exactly are those obstacles?

First lady Michelle Obama took the stage in Argentina on Wednesday with Argentinian vice president Juliana Awada to talk to young girls about becoming leaders. She warned them about the obstacles they will face.

The first obstacle happens in the classroom, Michelle Obama noted.

“[I’ve dealt with] teachers who didn’t think I was smart enough and would call on the boys instead of the girls, even though the girls had better grades,” she said in the speech, which is part of her “Let Girls Learn” initiative. “People who thought a girl shouldn’t have ambition—and they would ask my brother what career he planned to have but would ask me what kind of man I wanted to marry.”

The next obstacle happens while walking down the street or entering a room full of strangers.

Michelle explained: “As I got older, I found that men would whistle or make comments about how I looked as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own. I began to realize that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me. Messages that said that, as a girl, my voice was somehow less important. That how my body looked was more important than how my mind worked. That being strong and powerful and outspoken just wasn't appropriate or attractive for a girl."

The final obstacle comes from within, she explained.

“I started to question myself: Was I too loud? Too much? Was I too bossy? Was I dreaming too big? And for years, I would lie awake at night and those doubts would eat away at my heart."

But Michelle said she managed to get past those obstacles. "I got tired of worrying about what everyone else thought of me."

Instead, she took another path. 

"I decided not to listen to the voices of those who doubted or dismissed me. Instead, I decided to listen to my own voice and to rely on the support of the people in my life who believed in my ability to achieve my own dreams.”

In tackling the naysayers, Michelle told the audience she dreamed of attending the best university, becoming a lawyer and being a leader in her community. She urged the young women out there to take on the challenges they face as women by getting an education, fighting to be paid equally and balancing the demands of family and work. 

"I devoted all of my energy to doing well in school. I made sure I was one of the most well prepared students in my class. While some doubted a girl like me good attend a top university, I went ahead and applied anyway. And I got accepted and eventually got a law degree from Harvard University. That education was everything for me."

She continued: "Because of my education, I had opportunities my parents could never have dreamed of for  themselves. I want to urge you to get the education you need to get your voice heard in the world and rise up as leaders at every level of society around the world." She spoke about how women need to advocate for equal pay, for access to education and for leadership roles in their country, their workplaces and in global organizations..

 

Personally, I found Michelle Obama's speech motivating, timely and important. 

Have a listen and let me know what you think. Will the next generation of young women be the leaders we hope they will be?