With a proven record of bringing in captivating speakers and a consistently sold-out crowd of delightful attendees eager to learn, it is nearly impossible to walk out of a Women at Work event without some new tidbit of information, some new inspiration to help propel your career, or some new contacts.
The recent panel discussion on “The Path of the Professional Woman” was no different. The panel, comprised of women from three different generational groups, reflected on past challenges and divulged tips for accomplishing career goals. What was especially helpful with this event was that all topics for discussion were submitted by attendees of past Women at Work events.
Panelists included the following:
Dr. Judith Prince, USC Upstate
Ashley Cuttino, Ogletree Deakins
Jessica Sharp, Greenville Health System
Here are some of the major takeaways from the day:
The Role Passion for One's Job Plays
For Dr. Prince, passion played a huge role throughout her career. “I didn’t set out to have a piece of the pie. I set out to change the recipe.”
Dr. Prince and Ashley Cuttino both referred to similar facets of mentorship but with different names – Dr. Prince calls it being a sponsor. Ashley refers to it as an advocate. Both terms mean one thing: Taking mentorship one step further by actually advocating on behalf of the mentee. In the words of Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”
Expectations from Employer
For Ashley, whose industry is predominantly male, she expects women to have not just access to equal pay but the same access across the board – access to the same marketing money, clients, types of cases, and the highest level of partnership. One thing baby boomers and millennials have in common is that they both question authority. Millennials expect to be allowed the freedom to be themselves. According to Jessica Sharp, the youngest on the panel, young professionals want to be seen as more than just a worker and want to build a meaningful relationship with their employer.
Work/Life Balance – What it means, how to manage it, and general advice
Ashley suggests taking control, “Don’t be afraid to change how you deal with your balance as life changes. Right now my kids’ schedules are busier than my own.” She adds, “You don’t have to be perfect. Quit putting that pressure on yourself.”
Those who are single and without kids can fall into the trap of thinking that their time is less valuable than others’, but Jessica warns against the perils of this mindset. Jessica’s philosophy for maintaining balance is accepting that she is her own family. “Whatever you need to do is important, personal time is important. Do what you need to so when you go to work you are one hundred percent.”
For Dr. Prince, it took a little time to figure out how to avoid extremes. When her son was born, she went back to work four short weeks later. When her son was a teenager, she dropped all civic responsibilities. When you are setting your schedule, look at the long-term big picture. If taking time off, keep your foot in the door to be able to get back into that profession should you decide to.
A Man’s World?
“One or two women at the top doesn’t mean we’ve made it.” The doors can be opened wider and we can continue to help each other. Avoid being duped by the illusion of inclusion. Ashley advises that if you aren’t asking for the same things as men, that is on you. “Women communicate differently. If your form is different, learn a more effective way or change to a place where you will succeed.”
Thanks to our expert panelists for their insight and, most importantly, their enthusiasm for lifting up other women in the community.