Monday, February 19, 2007

Work-Life Balance

I've recently been asked to speak at Ryerson's International Women's Day. Public speaking is probably one of my biggest fears and it was all too tempting to turn down this opportunity, but I decided to accept the invitation.

My daughter's first response on hearing about the request was to ask why would they want to hear from me? No chance of my getting an ego! Then later when I heard they wanted me to talk about work-life balance, my husband just laughed and observed that it wouldn't be a long presentation, as I'd never achieved it!!

Then when I chatted to a girlfriend about my dilemma, she suggested I read a few books on the topic. Bit like studying for an exam, I'd have to bone up on the subject. Somehow that didn't seem real.

So instead, I spent the weekend crafting what I wanted to say. What did I decide about work-life balance, apart from the fact that it has alluded me? Personally I think it is a bit of a myth. I'm from the first generation of women who worked outside the home, and we were promised it all. I have reached the conclusion that you can have it all - just not at the same time. We have cycles or seasons in our lives, and it's all about choices and priorities.

There are times, especially when your children are little (or teenagers), when they need you. But I don't think we should become martyrs to motherhood either. And yes, there have been times when my life has been totally off kilter, but I like to think that I recognized the problem early and wasn't afraid to move on and leave that position.

It is often time for ourselves that gets lost in the shuffle - and that is one area I have always protected and guarded - be it to volunteer, visit with girlfriends or get my hair done. I find grabbing those moments for myself are what keeps me balanced.

A few years ago I asked women entrepreneurs why they started their business, and the most popular response was to gain more control. And while that is true to a certain extent, when you are first starting out, it is definitely not 9-5, especially if you want to be a success and there are times when it seems your business controls you, not the other way around.

What's your thoughts on this topic? Have you found balance? What do you do? Let me know, and who knows, I may be able to weave it into my presentation!!
Empowering Women

On Friday I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the Empowering Women event hosted by the Board of Trade.

Over 700 women attended this event and they had an impressive line up of speakers to provoke, challenge and start us think differently - about the environment, mental illness, politics and the proverbial glass ceiling.

Justin Trudeau was the opening speaker and with his good looks and charm, it was easy to stay awake, despite the early hour, to listen to what he had to say. I was impressed by how poised and eloquent he was as he spoke passionately about today's youth and our environment. Next came his mother, Margaret, who shared her struggles with mental illness and glimpse of her life with Pierre Trudeau.

The panel of women in politics was vibrant and provocative. Although the women were from different parties, you got the sense, that they at least, would be able to work together. Mary-Ann Chambers, was a refreshing change, still clear on her role and not jaded (yet) by politics.

Helen Johns, someone I had worked for in the past, brought up an interesting point that the behaviour in the House had deteriorated with the arrival of TV tapings. Instead of dealing with the issues at hand, too much time was spent on posturing and showing off for the cameras.

Normally, the crowd can be a bit sleepy after lunch, but no chance of that with comedienne, Jessica Holmes, who had the audience in stitches with her dramatic take of Celine Dion. Next was the moving story of Carol Ann, a woman who had survived a dire childhood to successfully run a multi-million business in Vancouver. Her story served to remind you of the tenacity of some individuals to overcome unsurmountable odds.

The afternoon ended with a panel of women who have broken the glass ceiling - either within their corporation or through starting their own business venture. This panel was probably the low point of the day. I had taken my daughters to this event, wanting to expose them to the issues facing women, but neither were impressed with the challenges facing women in the corporate world.

It was clear from the women on the panel, that they had made choices and sacrifices to get to where they were, while for many of us, those choices were not an option or something we would consider in our pursuit for success. It might have been more real to hear from middle-managers who want to move ahead, but are stuck because of the lack of opportunities and mentoring available to them.

All told however, it was a wonderful day and the Toronto Board of Trade is to be commended for bringing such a wealth of experience and expertise into one venue.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In the past I have always tried to see the best in people, but lately my faith has been sorely tested.

Take the 20 copies of Courage to Succeed that I provided on consignment to a women's group, on the understanding that as they sold, the money would be paid. Well over a year has lapsed and while I have tried on several occasions to get the status on book sales, and better still, some funds or the books back, I've been thwarted at every turn and given the run-around. So what started out as a supportive gesture, has turned into a costly mistake. Clearly, I totally misjudged the character of the individual involved and frankly I feel I've been taken for a ride. Who knows where this will end - maybe in court - but regardless, it leaves me with a sour taste and a more cynical perspective. I won't be so generous the next time someone asks for a favour.

Then there's someone who is bad-mouthing me, and worse still, lying about a situation to anyone who asks. Again - what's the answer? I've always believed in staying professional, in taking the high road and letting business disagreements stay where they belong, between those parties involved. But it's hard when others don't operate under the same rules and values. Do you enter the fray and get down to their level? Or do you just walk away, with your dignity in tact? In this instance, it's much easier to let it go. It costs too much in negative energy to pursue it further, and as someone pointed out...people who know me, know who to believe.

At times it does seem like a dog-eat-dog world out there, but personally I don't have the appetite for it.

PS - March 2nd. After much reflection, I have decided to let go my pursuit of getting my money or books back. My only hope is that the books have gone to women who will be inspired by the stories.