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Women Worth Watching in Leadership - On Prioritization

Anyone else create more work for themselves because they can't decide what direction to take, so you do the work for both? No? Just me? I'm sure I'm not alone in this, and sometimes, it allows me to really dig in and figure out which idea holds more merit.

In this case, after writing two essays, I was still on the fence. I could only submit one for the

2023 Woman Worth Watching in Leadership by Diversity Profiles Magazine, but I have the opportunity to share both here. Below are the thoughts I collected about the myth of women being able to have it all in their career, or rather, how to prioritize in work and life. I'm still early in my career. I have no kids, a lot of flexibility, and a job that allows me to set my own priorities, so I recognize that I still have a lot to learn on this as I continue to grow in my professional and personal career.

For me, “having it all” was never off the table. My mom is a successful engineer who worked while raising two children. She demonstrated what it meant to be an involved parent, to find success in her professional career, to actively pursue hobbies and engage with her community.  The example she set for me erased many of the traditional barriers to entry into STEM. There was never a doubt in my mind that a woman could be good at math and science, pursue their interests, and have a family, too.  

Thus far, my career has taught me that there is far more going behind the scenes to achieve the outward, perceived image of having it all figured out. Reaching professional goals requires pursuing many opportunities, just to have a few of them pan out. And even before that, it requires thoughtfulness behind setting your goals so you know what you’re pursuing. I used to view many of my achievements as lucky, like winning a scholarship and leading my first major project. Looking back, I recognize that I applied to many scholarships I did not get before earning one, and I demonstrated my dedication and technical expertise before being asked to lead a project. For women in engineering, many glass ceilings have been broken, meaning that there are fewer formal barriers and hardworking women have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve the impossible, but I think most of my colleagues would agree that we still face challenges. Lower salaries, societal expectations to contribute more to childcare, and imposter syndrome make it that much more difficult achieve professional success and personal satisfaction. 

What I have learned I is that there are limits to “having it all.” That doesn’t mean it is not possible, but it does mean that we need to be intentional with the priorities that we set, and the avenues we pursue. Choosing to spend time in one area in life often means sacrificing in another, and success is an outcome of tenacity, intentionality, and maybe still a bit of luck. I also recognize that it takes a support system to make it all possible. I am extremely grateful to my parents, who not only encouraged me to pursue my interests but made sure I had access to resources to do so, and to my husband, who is my number one supporter and takes every opportunity to remind me not to downplay the significance of my contributions. My hope is that more women believe that they can “have it all”, whatever that means to them, and that our families, our workplaces, and our communities will continue to expand their support systems to elevate women towards their goals. 

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