Women are Women, Here and There
By Cecilia Russo
Women in the U.S. and Brazil have much in common. Globalization is a reality, not only in the economy or in politics but also when we talk about the professional and personal challenges facing women.
That’s according to Cecilia Russo, a women’s business expert, author and owner of Groupo Troiano. She flew out from her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil to attend PINK’s 8th Annual Fall Empowerment Event in Atlanta. After the conversation between some of America’s top women business leaders – Procter & Gamble SVP and Treasurer, Teri List-Stoll, WellPoint Inc. SVP and CMO, Kate Quinn and Accenture Chief Compliance Officer and General Counsel, Julie Sweet, Russo concludes these 10 issues are especially relevant for professional women in both countries:
- Children. The three super-successful executives opened the debate by talking for 20 minutes about children and how they manage the corporate agenda with the demands of motherhood. The feeling from the three working mothers is that you will always have your heart broken and raise children with some measure of guilt. Sound familiar?
- Women can have it all? The response was unanimous: “Absolutely yes.” But what also became clear is that you cannot have everything at once, nor have everything perfect. “It is impossible to have everything together. You need to set priorities. It takes a little time,” illustrates Teri Stoll, married mother of two teenagers and top woman at P&G.
- A great man by her side. It’s been said: “behind every great man there is a great woman.” Today, it seems that the statement is true, however – it applies to great women. All were unanimous in pointing out that each has the support of her husband –which has been critical for her success and peace of mind. That is, couples act in a complementary manner, one helping the other in the performance of tasks related to home and family.
- A moment to call your own. The woman warrior needs to rest and reserve for herself some time during the day or at least weekly. This is crucial to ensure emotional balance and energy. Julie Sweet, a lawyer and mother of three children offers this tip: “Every month I reserve time just for me. I plan ahead how to use this time.” And List-Stoll wakes up around 5 a.m. to energize herself for a busy day, making daily runs through her neighborhood, even during cold winter months. The way to enjoy this moment does not matter but the message is clear. It’s important to take time to slow down and rejuvenate yourself.
- It is not easy to have an active professional life and personal life and maintain a stable family. All three women agree on this. Determination to work on this, regardless of the option chosen, is crucial to achieve a balanced life. Whether you’re a housewife or a professional, being happy with your choice is the first step to be successful and have an emotionally healthy life.
- Professional environment atmosphere remains male-dominated. Much still needs to change with regard to the current work schedule, which was built by men and for men, long ago. The possibility of a flexible schedule and a “home-office” are welcome alternatives for women. It seems to be a promising way to ensure the presence of women in the labor market and, at the same time, keeping them connected to other important aspects of their lives. Kate Quinn, married, mother of three and a top WellPoint executive says “no job is unisex size,” each case is unique, especially for women who are mothers.
- Hide pregnancy from the boss seems like the old days? No! Julie Sweet is American, has held leadership positions outside the United States and speaks Chinese. A fantastic curriculum did not prevent her from being afraid to tell her boss about her second pregnancy. She was afraid to hear again what she had heard on her first pregnancy, from her boss, then a man: “Your career is over.”
- The importance of a mentor within the company. For the three executives, the key to a successful career is recognizing how to identify your strengths and weaknesses and seek to adjust them to your advantage. The figure of a person, sometimes a superior, who acts as her mentor, is central to this development. I see today in Brazil, a few companies have such initiatives and the results are starting to appear, with more women in leadership positions.
- “What is success?” That was posed by Glenda Umaña who has been working on the air for CNN Espanol for 15 years. After a few seconds of silence and reflection, Kate Quinn shared her version of success and was supported by the others: “Success is happiness and this pattern can not be the same for everyone … to achieve their life goals.” Again, arises the perspective of a particular dimension of each woman’s individual choice to measure happiness or success.
- Best advice. A valuable tip for other executives is how the debate ends. The answer is apparently simple: “Keep the humor in everyday life and have fun, laugh, enjoy the journey,” says Quinn.
Reviewing these 10 points above, I was, once more, impressed by the similarities between Brazilian and American business women. Of course there are differences, especially in relation to paid maternity leave (which oddly enough, the Americans do not always have). But clearly these are universal themes, which are deep, collective and shared by Americans, Brazilians and, dare I say, others including Italians, Argentineans as well as by women in Japan and South Africa. We are global citizens not because we consume the same brands but mainly because we share common dilemmas. We dream, we suffer, we blame and succeed with different intensities, possibly, but in the same direction. We are not alone on this journey, after all, there are millions of other women experiencing and striving for the same causes. We are global, in joy and in sorrow; after all, women are women, here and there.
Russo has submitted a version of this story in Portuguese to CLAUDIA, a popular woman’s magazine in Brazil.
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