You may not realize it, but you’re already Wonder Woman.
You work 40+ hours a week.
You make time for family, and you sometimes have a social life.
You might be raising kids, have pets or even be a crazy plant lady.
You’re usually wearing so many hats, you sometimes forget to take one off before putting another one on.
Often, as a woman in tech, the lines between our work life and our home life get blurry. We accept this blurriness as part of the package deal; we get paid well, we work hard, and we always rise to the occasion – no matter what it takes.
We fully understand the pressure and the potential that we face daily on the job and the effort that it takes to rise above gender norms and stereotypes. While careers in technology provide many of us with a feeling of excitement and fulfillment, they also come with unique challenges for us women, especially when learning how to balance our ambitious work life with our meaningful home life.
I work with women in tech all the time, and I find many of the same questions and concerns come up regardless of age, job title or level of experience.
My curiosity was especially piqued when volunteering as a career coach at the ACT-W (Advancing the Careers of Tech Women) National Conference in April. In the same busy half-day, I sat down with almost two dozen women who, collectively, covered a broad range of ages, experience, and technical skills.
One was a woman looking for her first job as a developer. Another was going for an exciting-but-nerve-wracking final interview as an Executive VP in a Fortune 500 company.
Both women had the same questions.
Most of the women I spoke to shared similar thoughts, concerns and questions.
Interested in finding out more about how others were addressing these issues, I reached out to hundreds of women in tech to get some insights.
Through my research over the past few months, I’ve heard from some of the world’s most influential women in technology. I not only wanted to know what challenges they have faced but most importantly, what solutions they have found and strategies they have utilized to attain a balance that feels good and allows them to live a life they love.
Here are 5 of their most compelling strategies:
39% of women mentioned that finding a routine, schedule, or rhythm that works for them has been essential to finding work/life balance.
Vivian Lien is the CMO at ASUS North America and she shared that “Keeping to a routine, like making dinner every evening, also helps ensure I’m allowing myself downtime. It takes the mind away from work and/or technology while also ensures that my family is healthy and fed. As well, dinner provides an opportunity for us to put the electronics down, and spend quality time with each other. Balance is also about keeping perspective. While I could do everything all at the same time, it does not mean that I should, and it helps me define priorities.”
“Balance is relative. One size fits one!” says Donna Peeples, Chief Customer Officer for Pypestream. Tanvi Abbhi, co-ounder of Veta Health, agrees: “One size does not fit all. You have to find what works for your career and your family and create strategies to maximize your focus on each.”
One of my favorite answers came from Marlyne, Financial Services Executive and Founder at Modern Mogul HQ:
“Over the last few years I came to understand that finding balance between my personal life and work demands has less to do with hours in the day and things to do in those hours and more to do with how much mental space I could create for myself so that I reduce feelings of anxiety and extreme stress.”
What does finding a healthy routine look like for you?
71% of women in tech prioritize finding ways to schedule and spend time with their friends, family, and partner to help maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Making plans and prioritizing them will ensure you follow through on the life part of the work/life balance.
Kelly Doran is the Director of Marketing for the company that created Rock My Run and Jolt.ai (a fitness chatbot I’m about to get to know more about!) shares a specific tip you can start using today: “I make personal commitments for the following week. This isn’t just telling myself I’ll do it – I get it on the calendar. I book a workout class. I make plans with my husband and set physical reminders to reach out to friends. It doesn’t always work, but I find the simple act of getting something in writing keeps me more accountable.”
“I admit that having two young children while working in the tech industry can be challenging.” shares Silvana Gaia, Technical Consultant with Belatrix Software. “I work part-time, so to be productive I have to effectively manage my time and my schedule. It’s essential to prioritize, and be transparent with colleagues about how long it will take for me to deliver work – and of course be willing to say no.”
Roanne Sones is a General Manager at Microsoft, and she says “Look at your life in four quadrants: Parent (if you have kids), Partner (relationship), Worker, You. There are only 24 hours in each day, so it’s pretty tough to try to have all quadrants equal – instead, it’s a give-and-take. This perspective allows you to give yourself some grace – and cut yourself some slack! The goal is to take account of these quadrants regularly, so you can adjust along the way.”
What is one way you will prioritize your family or social life this week?
55% of women utilize programs like Google Calendar or other scheduling software to find and maintain a healthy balance.
Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder at Fairygodboss makes it crystal clear what helps her find balance: “Ruthless prioritization. I try to start each day with a clean slate and clear goals of what I need to accomplish that day.”
“I am obsessive about my calendar: everything goes on my calendar – work and personal items. If it is not written down, it won’t get done so I make sure to put everything on there.” Shelley Westman, Principal, EY Cybersecurity Services and I have this practice in common!
You’ve got to be realistic about what you can and can’t handle, and develop a support system to help you. Licenia Rojas is a Unit CIO of the Global Services Technology Group for American Express and she admits that “The calendar is my friend! I maintain two calendars – one for work and one for home – and I prioritize and integrate the most important activities from each one into both places. When there are conflicts, that is where my support network comes into play. For example, I may have to ask a delegate to attend a meeting or take a business trip on my behalf, or an event at my children’s school may get covered by my husband or a grandparent.”
How can you integrate using a calendar to help find more balance in your life?
Make Room for Me Time
58% of women in tech think time for yourself is essential to finding balance.
Women often struggle with making time for self-care. Maybe it’s our natural tendency to take care of others first; maybe it’s that we are often held to different standards than men in the tech industry.
Taking “me time” is an important part of living a life you love. Katelyn Coghlan is General Manager of In-It VR, a subsidiary of The Glimpse Group and I love how she put it: “Working in tech is hard. There will be long days, late nights, and weekends full of work that needs to get done. But as you find your way you will get into a rhythm of work, which will give you a chance to find time to play. And when you do find that time, don’t feel ashamed to take it.”
Leah Oppenheimer, the owner of LEROOP Consulting, points out that self-care is critical to your performance at work. “You’ll be twice as efficient if you are well-rested. It just takes courage to remind yourself that it’s okay to take that time – it belongs to you.”
“It’s so important to eat well and have a regular exercise routine. This really helps me to step away from my day to day and focus on me.” Alison Lamano, Lead Business Analyst at DefinedLogic.
What is one thing you can do to take care of yourself this week?
36% of women in tech find that it is essential to search and work for a company that aligns with their values and takes active steps to promote work/life balance.
“Find a company that truly values balance. You will never be able to make it a priority for yourself if the company you work for demands more than you can realistically give,” says Meisha Bochicchio, Content Marketing Manager at PlanSource. “Specifically, ask about things that are important to you – flex work hours, PTO policies, wellness initiatives, etc.”
Liz Carroll, Manager of Public and Media Relations at MEDITECH backs that up. “Find a company that truly supports a work/life balance. And don’t just take it at face value — make sure whichever company you are considering is “walking the walk” and offers programs/benefits embedded in their company culture to support work and life challenges. Also, don’t think you need to put your career on hold to start/raise a family. I was promoted into a management position during my Maternity Leave! Find a company that values your worth and contributions to the organization.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want! “You do not get it unless you ask for it,” says Angela Pecoraro, CEO at Advicent. “Make your intentions clear when managing your own career path. Ask for it because no one else is a better advocate for yourself than you.”
“Women are typically in demand in technology positions. Therefore, try to find a company where both the company culture and your direct supervisor are supportive of working women.” Carolyn Lehecka, Project Manager at RE2 Robotics says. “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and be prepared to make career changes if you cannot find the balance that you and your family need.”
What is one thing you need from your work life, and how can you ask for it?
These are just a few of the hundreds of responses received from women in tech finding balance in their work and personal lives. There are so many more insights that will be featured in the forthcoming book: Empowered Women in Tech: Finding Balance.
Want to be considered for future articles, books and blog posts? Find out more about contributing your thoughts and insights HERE.