Guest post from Kaylin Greene
Discovering my “true north” at the Dyson Symposium in Women in Leadership
Work/life balance was a theme explored throughout the Dyson Symposium on Women in Leadership. Some of my peers who attended the conference were interested in exploring the feasibility of managing a career while raising a family. Katelyn Fletcher, a senior who attended the symposium, spoke with me about her aspirations of becoming a teacher and her desire to someday have a family. She said that the concept of “true north” provided her with new insights on integrating seemingly conflicting personal and career goals. (“True north” was previously introduced by Linda Liu ‘13 during a panel in Professor Deborah Streeter’s AEM 3340 class on Women, Leadership and Entrepreneurship). We learned that maintaining a “true north” requires reflecting on one’s three top values to create a “moral dashboard,” which then can be used as a tool when making important life decisions. Though “true north” is designed to provide a stable moral foundation, I believe that it is important to continue checking in with my top values and to readjust my “true north” when necessary. For example, components of my “true north” include my future professional career, my family, and my health. As I prepare for the working world after graduating college, I am deeply curious about how professional women leaders juggle their families and their work.
With this idea of “true north” fresh in my mind, I was grateful for the opportunity during the Dyson Symposium to hear professional women speak about their experiences surrounding both their career paths and their families. Suzy Welch, the symposium’s first keynote speaker, recognized that she did not spend as much time with her four young children as she could have while she was building a career in business journalism. Despite this, she was still able to create meaningful relationships with each one of them as they grew older, and fostered within them a passion to pursue their own respective careers. In my own experience growing up with two parents who worked full-time, there were several instances in which I felt lonely and frustrated that my mother was not available immediately after I came home from school. However, as I grew older, I realized that much of my passion for having a multi-faceted lifestyle of academics, volunteering, sports, and family came from watching my mother find a way to manage our large family and her demanding career as a healthcare provider. My mother is the inspiration behind the “family” and “career” components of my “true north.”
My “health” component of my “true north” developed during my time at Cornell. Here, I recognized that sleep was my ultimate weapon against diseases that would hinder my academic success and wellbeing. While some of the speakers at the symposium were able to become successful at the expense of a normal sleep schedule, I recognize that I personally cannot sacrifice it. During the panel on “Unusual Pathways to Entrepreneurship,” I was fascinated by Erin O’Connor’s story of starting a family before launching her career. Ms. O’Connor is the president at Cammack Health, she and discussed with us her “love for change” as she described her many career transitions at several healthcare companies before she achieved her current position. During this period of career-building and raising a family, she also pursued a law degree. During a one-on-one with her later that day, I asked Ms. O’Connor how she was able to juggle everything at once. She said that she and her then-husband coordinated childcare and their working schedules: She worked during the day and took care of the children at night, while he did the reverse. She admitted to having very little sleep during this time when her children were small. While Ms. O’Connor was able to manage her career and family very efficiently in this manner, I am not sure that I would personally be able to execute this without being consistently well-rested and healthy.
Linda Liu, Suzy Welch, Katelyn Fletcher and Erin O’Connor each have their respective “true norths” when it comes to juggling the demands of a multi-faceted life, particularly when it comes to raising a family and maintaining a successful career. My time at the conference listening to these inspiring individuals discuss their approaches to their work/life balance have cemented in the components of “family,” “career,” and “health” into my own “true north” and have helped me better envision how to integrate the demands required by each one of these components. By focusing on these values that are most important to me, I feel that I can confidently move forward with a greater sense of purpose and direction.
Kaylin Greene is studying Biology and Society in class of 2016. Other activities and Societies include: Women’s Varsity Track and Field, Big Red Marching Band, Cornell Roosevelt Institute, Cornell Beekeeping Club, and Big Red Pep Band.