What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Peg Breen: March 26, 20137 Comments

In the fall of 1994, I was working for an HMO, when I got a call from a former boss. After a few minutes of pleasant chitchat about kids and local events, the conversation sort of stalled. It was in that pause that Michelle* lowered her voice to just above a whisper, (which was strange because she was calling from her car), and said, "I just wanted to check in to see if you are happy in your job.  I'd like you to meet somebody.”

What happened next is what everyone wishes for in his or her career. A well-funded and successful telecom company was recruiting me. “We’re going global!”, the Senior Vice President of HR said, as we sipped coffee at an offbeat little coffee shop where I imagined he took all the techies he recruited. I had the chance to get in on the ground floor. International travel. Stock options. Huge growth potential. "There is one catch,” the SVP told me. "You'll have to take a cut in base pay."

“Let me think about it" I said. In the end I took the job, but I came up with all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t negotiate for a higher salary.

I tell this story because I've spent the last couple of weeks watching and reading interviews with Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer from Facebook. First in a graduation address at Barnard College, then later in a TED Talk, and a 60 minutes interview, Ms. Sandberg describes why American business largely remains a man’s game and what women (and men) can do to change that mindset.  She was so intent on igniting dialogue about this that she wrote a book called “Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead”.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In the book she describes the fact that women represent over 50% of the college graduates but hold only a very small percentage of executive level jobs or board of director seats. She says we can change that. Here are a few of her observations about how to do it:

  • Don’t leave before you leave -Women who desire to get married and have a family sometimes don’t step up for leadership roles, as they anticipate they might have to “lean back” in the future. She says Balderdash! Go for it!  When the time comes you can figure out how to balance your work and family, or take a breather before you launch back into the job you love.

  • One of the most important career decisions you can make is who you marry -Sandberg says that a strong partnership at home, which means you share both the housework and kid-chores, can help you maintain the energy and focus you need for your career.

Careers aren’t a ladder, they are a Jungle Gym– Sandberg says that the most important thing we can do is find meaning, contentment and passion in our jobs. The next step doesn't always have to be upward to the next rung. It might be sideways or diagonal, but it always has to fill our need for connection and purpose.

Feel worthy of recognition – Sandberg tells the story that when Mark Zuckerberg made her an offer to join Facebook she told her husband she was going to accept the offer as is, because it was generous. He went bananas and told her - You will be responsible for negotiating deals for Facebook! How does it look if you don’t negotiate your salary? Make him pay you what he’d pay a guy, he advised. So, she did. In August 2012, Sheryl Sandberg was ranked the 10th most powerful woman by Forbes Magazine, joined Facebook’s board of directors as the first female member, and owns $1 billion dollars worth of unvested stock.

I was lucky enough to learn some of these lessons from women mentors along the way and in turn I want to pay it forward with other women. I wonder what more should we be doing at Community to help women succeed in their careers? What personal responsibility do we have for mentoring and helping women grow and learn in their jobs? Let me know what you think! Reply with a comment and list your name to receive a copy of Sheryl’s new book.

(*Michelle is not the name of my old boss, but I have a lot to thank her for, because she taught me how to Lean In!)


7 responses to What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Love this book and Topic

I am so excited to stumble across this blog and topic (a bit late). I LOVED the book “Lean In” and have lent it to a few of my colleagues to help encourage them with whatever internal struggles or insecurities they are having. For me the biggest messages that stuck out were those on balancing career, career advancement, and motherhood. Holy moly, this has been an internal struggle for me for five years, since I had my first child. There is nothing in the world as amazing as your children and more than anything I want to know that I am being the best that I can for them. I have analyzed, scrutinized, spread sheeted, Googled, banged my head against the wall, and I have not found or felt completely comfortable knowing what is “best” for a mother to do in regards to work/career and raising children. In reading this book, Sandberg does a great job on reflecting the mixed messages in culture for women. She quotes professor Williams saying: “these mommy wars are so bitter…the ideal worker is someone who is always available for work, and the ‘good mother’ is defined as always there for her children…so you have each group of women judging the other, because neither group of women has been able to live up to inconsistent ideals…guilt and insecurity makes us second guess ourselves and, in turn, resent one another.” Ahhhhh, it was so enlightening to read about this topic in blunt form and see that I was not crazy constantly feeling pressure (from myself) to work more, push into your career, or pull back and be at home more. There is truly a tug of war in society. Since reading this book I have settled more comfortably in my decisions about career and motherhood. I know for me the passion that I have about my profession is part of what makes me complete, just as my children do. Likewise my career is a positive influence on my children as they want to hear the stories of my day, see me helping people in the community, and brag to others about what mommy does. I am truly fortunate to work for an employer that promotes work-family balance. My most stressful days are the ones where my babies are sick and need me, but I feel the pressure of the obligation to patients on my schedule. CMC provides us with sick family member benefit, alternative schedules, maternity/paternity benefits, great health care benefits and more. As more women continue to promote within our corporation, I hope that CMC will continue to grow as a family friendly employer. Sarah Anderson


Thank you for encouraging this discussion

I first head of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, on a political talk show. Needless to say, I was intrigued after listening to the panel’s debate regarding the books merit, the author’s intentions, and it’s projected place in the literary world (it had yet to be released at this time). Shortly thereafter Lean In hit the shelves, and e-readers, of the world and became a sensation. I heard more about the book from various outlets; tv news, blog sites (including this one), and friends on Facebook. I received my book from Amazon about a week ago and just started reading it. Let me tell you; I – Am – Hooked. After the Introduction I was telling my fiance that he had to read the book too. By the end of Chapter 1 I had my pencil out, underlining the phrases that resonated with me. At the end of Chapter 3 I joined the Lean In group on LinkedIN and saved the book’s website (www.leanin.org) to my favorite list for further review. What would you do if you weren't afraid? A seemingly simple, yet probing question to constantly ask yourself. Remembering to challenge yourself, your own perceptions of your ability, and never stop working towards your goals. I am eager to pick up the book again and continue reading. Soaking up an inspiring message and, most importantly, putting it into practice. Lean in. Mary Andersen


Women Mentoring Women

This is a topic that is really at the heart of nursing. You see articles about "Nurses eating their young." And although this is a reality in some cases I think we do ourselves a diservice by not highlighting the fact that their are nurses mentoring nurses. Now I realize that men are nurses too, but I am focusing on the majority. There are nurses who mentor other nurses every single day. I would not be where I am today without several who have mentored me. From my nursing school instructors to the preceptors and collegues I have had over the years to the current CNO here at CRMC. All have been role models and leaders with their own styles and strengths and weaknesses. I have learned and grown as a nurse, a leader and a women as a result of their gift of mentoring. I feel it is a privilege to now have the opportunity to mentor other women nurses or not. In my department my wish is that all nurses, especially the women would embrace the gift of mentoring and supporting other nurses so that the future nurses will not even be able to recall a time when we said that "nurses eat their young."


My Most Important Mentor

I have a daughter, a daugther-in-law and 4 granddaughters so this topic is important to me. I have had many wonderful mentors, both male and female, throughout my life but the most important one was my mother. At a time when most of my friend's moms were the "stay at home" type, my mom chose to go to college and become a nurse. I was 12, my brothers were 10 and 8 and this craziness turned our lives upside down. In retrospect, I realize that she probably would have preferred to stay home but she wanted things for herself and her children, especially an education. She was not a natural student and she had to work hard to get good grades. She had to quit a couple of times and get a job to make ends meet but after 10 long hard years, she graduated from Fresno State with a nursing degree. In those years, we learned that it takes sacrifice, hard work and perseverance to achieve your dreams. Eventually she became a public health nurse. I am still amazed by the things she had to see and do in that job but she was fearless. She taught us to expect the unexpected and deal with it - a skill that comes in pretty handy at CRMC! My mom also taught us how important relationships are. Whether it was watching her and her nursing school buddies dissect a cat on our kitchen table or playing games around that same table with my aunt and uncle, she taught us that people come first. All of the lessons she taught us are important but that is the lesson that I most want to pass on - to my girls at home and to the many hard working women that I come in contact with everyday. Hard work and success do make dreams come true but it's the people part that makes it all worthwhile. Robyn Gonzales


Say yes to mentoring

Mentoring is a relationship that transcends supervisory structures and titles. A good mentoring relationship can result in: career advancement, an exchange of skills and knowledge, and professional and sometimes even personal support. CMC is interested in developing talent and women represent a deep pool. CMC should continue the development dialogue and encourage mentoring, recognizing that women’s career path can differ from men’s, but both can bring strengths in leadership roles. CMC should strive to have a more balanced leadership. Thinking and actions continue to evolve about women as leaders, but with mentoring we can pick up the pace. I agree with Sheryl and statistics of women in leadership confirm there is good reason to continue the conversation about related barriers. Mentoring is a great place to start. Submitted by Sandra Hermans


Female Mentors

Hi Peg. 24 years ago I was ready to leave Texas and was recruited by both CMC and SAMC. I took the position at CMC and the pay offer was lower than the other hospital's offer at that time. The other hospital also had clinical ladders in place as well as a few other perks. But, like you, I looked at the whole picture and I came to work for CMC because it fit me better. It's now been 24 years and I still love working here. I don't think I would have had as many opportunities to develop at the other hospital as I have had here. And like you, I've also had some wonderful female mentors. Two of my favorites are Phyllis Baltz and Trish Regonini. Phyllis has left the corporation but Trish is still here and currently manages the Institutional Review Board for CMC. I still go to her for advice.

Bonnie Harkins, RN Research Department California Cancer Center


Mentoring women to succeed

I think that Community is in the right path to help women succeed. I have noticed that there are more women in the upper level of Management and that they are strong and professional in their area.

I am glad that we are now starting to recognize more women for higher levels of management. Salary is still not where it should be for a woman, but maybe with the publicity that is out there regarding women vs. men's salaries for the same level of managment, it will be.

Betty Hernandez


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