Commitments: Help Utah Female Professionals Succeed

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Recently, my friend pointed me toward an article in the recent Utah Business magazine that gave the facts on the employment of women and men in Utah and their current wages.  The data was sourced to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey.  And, it made me sad.  Out of just over 1.2 million employed, civilian workers females made up 44.4% of the workforce and earned a median $20,053 per year (compared to males at $39,880).

In doing some follow up research, I got a lot more sad at the current state of affairs in Utah for female professionals.  It ultimately makes me worried for my daughter, wanting to figure out a way to help her lean to navigate the workforce reality.  USA Today stated in a recent article that Utah is the #1 worst state for women.  The methodology for their rating looks at wage gap, women in private company leadership, women in state legislature, poverty rate and infant mortality rate.  The article even noted that in Utah, women are holding less than 1 in 3 management positions.

I have been a resident of Utah for about 10 of the last 13 years.  I never thought I would live in Utah.  I met Jon at a wedding in Ohio, and I vividly remember him telling me he lived in Utah.  Utah?  I knew California, Las Vegas, Yellowstone and the Colorado rockies, but Utah?  Weren’t people from Utah either Mormon or ski bums?  Jon didn’t seem like either when I met him, so I went with it.  I was simply a love-struck 20 something, wondering more about where our next date weekend would be than the state of the workforce for female professionals.  I ultimately moved here, have fallen in love with the place, and have led about half of my 16 year career in the state.

Now, I consider myself a Utah local, a professional woman, and one of the apparently few female company executives in the state. I sit here thinking about how my role as a female executive can help drive change.  It is ironic to think this way, because I rarely, if ever, think about being a woman at work.  Over the years, I have come to work, tried my hardest to succeed every day, looked for opportunities to stretch myself, learned a lot, and ultimately tried not to take no for an answer.  By not defining myself using my gender, I have never seen professional boundaries.  This boundary-less world view has by its definition opened up my eyes to opportunities that I would otherwise never have seen.

I want to help, and take a purposeful role in making the future better in Utah for women.  But, I feel stuck.  Due to the fact that I am a working mother of two, and have the job that I have, I have little time to give to anything beyond my family and my job.  I feel guilty and sad to see this state of affairs and not be able to give more to help change it.  That said, this reality I live in of having to forcefully prioritize the time that I have, has been one of the things that has made me successful over the years.  So, my game plan is to help in the way my schedule and life allow.  I figured writing down a few commitments would help me to remember to stay accountable.

  • Raising strong-willed, independent children with Jon who see professional women as the norm;
  • Helping people in my team succeed as female professionals (in particular working moms);
  • Continue building a culture at CHG Healthcare where it is possible to be a successful working mom and a working dad;
  • Mentor people whenever I can find a spare moment helping to guide them through the choices that they need to make;
  • And, most importantly, never give up on my own dreams.  Shape them to be what I want them to be, not what others think is the right answer.

A short but important list that will hopefully help make a difference.

Commitments: Let the Game Come To You

Throughout my career, one of the most helpful pieces of feedback I have received is to “let it come to you.”  My first boss, Joe Haynes, gave me this advice.  I don’t know the origin of the phrase officially, but most often I have heard it used in sports…”let the game come to you.”  About a year ago, after an incident at my current job where I wish I would have applied this feedback, I decided to research a little bit more about this phrase.

One of the articles that I read was a review of Phil Jackson’s book Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success.  In the review it explained Jackson’s characterization of Michael Jordan’s play.  He described Jordan’s ability to lay back when he wasn’t on his game, and to not force it.  Jordan had a deep confidence in his ability, and he never felt as if he had to prove his greatness.  This was contrasted to Kobe Bryant, who although a tremendous player, pushed hard even when he wasn’t on his game or when the defense had him.

“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”  – Phil Jackson

In my career, I have always been the young one, feeling like the underdog.  I remember celebrating turning thirty professionally.  I felt like I no longer had to explain away my lack of years in life.  For some reason being the young one at the table made me feel like I had to go above and beyond to prove myself and build respect.  I would put the pressure on myself to be good all the time.  When things went wrong, I would overextend myself, giving more than was reasonable and trying too hard.  Let’s call it the Kobe Bryant model.  In hindsight, these moments were times that I should have just backed down…”letting the game come to me.”  This personal reaction, driven often times by a lack of confidence, often hurt more than it helped.

Today, looking back, I am grateful for these experiences as they have helped me to be a better professional, leader and coach to my team.  I have a renewed commitment to “let the game come to me” and to help develop this skill in my team.  Thanks Phil.