Leaning into Life: Women, the Workplace, and The Will to Lead

June 30, 2014 | Diana Stancy

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Millennial women have high expectations. They want to be leaders, achieve success in the workplace, and have families too. Yet many women struggle to maintain a balance between their career and family. How do they find a career that accommodates them? At the NeW National Conference on June 20, young conservative women received answers.

The second panel of the day titled, Leaning into Life: Women, the Workplace, and The Will to Lead, included guests speakers Mindy Finn, CEO of Mindy Finn, Inc, Heather Pfitzenmaier, director of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation, and Lou Ann Sabatier, CEO of Media DC.  Additionally, Kara Bloomer from the NeW Alumnae Network moderated the panel.

Prompted by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, the panel addressed topics identified by Sandberg. Have women’s careers remained stagnant? Do they unknowingly appear less competent? What should women do differently?

Although Ms. Finn stated she agreed with the majority of Sandberg’s book, she had additional thoughts. Contrary to what Sandberg insinuates, Ms. Finn never was concerned that she would not achieve her goals. She did not feel restrained as a woman. Ms. Finn recalled fearlessly interviewing senators on Capitol Hill early in her career.

In fact, the one thing that did frighten Ms. Finn was if she would have a successful marriage and be a good mother. Now married and the mother of two, she related that often her friends approach her and express their desire to have more flexibility in their careers.

Ms. Pfitzenmaier offered helpful strategies for women to establish themselves as leaders. First, she emphasized the value of dressing appropriately and that initial impressions are lasting. Furthermore, she expressed the importance of confidence and that women apologize too much in the workplace. She laughed as she noted several instances where women at the conference had apologized unnecessarily.

Likewise, Ms. Pfitzenmaier advised women to master their tasks, both simple and complex, and perform them with excellence. Additionally, she encouraged women to raise their hands at opportunities presented to them. She cited her interns at The Heritage Foundation who recently participated in a debate–only male interns volunteered.

Ms. Pfitzenmaier stressed the importance of developing a reputation as someone who is reliable and produces quality work. Ultimately, this leads to flexibility, an attribute women everywhere are searching for in their careers.

Reinforcing Ms. Finn and Ms. Pfitzenmaier’s comments, Ms. Sabatier shared her experiences. A self-made woman, Ms. Sabatier said her career began cleaning a fishpond as she related an anecdote from one of her first jobs. Now CEO of Media DC, she oversees properties that include The Weekly Standard, The Washington Examiner, and Red Alert Politics.

Ms. Sabatier also emphasized the value of a positive reputation. In her career, she was given flexibility to pursue different avenues of work because she was reliable and her superiors knew she would produce exceptional results. Some advice from Ms. Sabatier to young women:

“Don’t strive for perfection, strive for excellence.”

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