Is your organization tackling the issue of gender balance in the boardroom? Or building a culture that supports work-life balance? To give visibility to the challenge of balance, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is #BalanceforBetter.
How can women (and men) achieve both kinds of balance? How can organizations support this? To learn more, I spoke to my colleague Lauren Zajac, chief legal officer/data protection officer at Workhuman. In this interview, Lauren gives her unique perspective on balance in the world of technology. She discusses practical ideas to achieve work-life balance and strategies to help women find their voice in the boardroom.
Workhuman: You play such an important role at Workhuman as chief legal counsel. Tell us a bit about your career journey.
Lauren: I knew I wanted to be a lawyer from when I was 7 years old.
As I was starting law school, I saw the world changing with regard to protecting software. I grew up in a household that embraced technology. I understood from an early age the value of software to the creator. I chose to study under some leading thinkers around the Copyright Act. Some of these thinkers ended up being my mentors and have guided me throughout my journey. I have never left the technology world as a lawyer and have not regretted the decision.
Workhuman: As you went through this journey in the world of technology, can you tell us about your personal journey?
Lauren: I spent a few years working crazy long hours and trying to figure out how to solve legal challenges. You come out of law school knowing how to spot issues, but not how to address issues.
I did that for a few years, and then I started a family. It was important that I had a seat at the executive table as well as a family. Every day I juggle being a mom and a lawyer, while trying to be available and accountable to everyone.
Workhuman: How do you define balance?
Lauren: Balance is being fully present when I'm with my children and when I'm doing my job as general counsel. Balance does not mean I am going at 200 miles per hour. It is about being focused and present in whatever I am doing.
Workhuman: How does Workhuman support you having balance?
Lauren: The culture here at Workhuman supports work-life balance. Each employee is given the leeway to be present for the many roles in his or her life. If I need to leave early or step away from a meeting for a personal item, it is no problem. The leadership here at Workhuman believes that for employees to do their best work, they need to bring their full, authentic selves to work.
Workhuman: Which practices do you use to help you achieve balance?
Lauren: I meditate every morning. This has helped me be present and focused. It has helped my mind settle down, and to stop thinking about the “should’s,” such as “I should be doing this?”
I also let myself off the hook. I bring my best self to work each and every day. The reality is my best may look different depending on what is going on at work and at home.
Setting goals that are unattainable only leads to stress and frustration. I have found that by letting myself off the hook of unattainable goals, I can relax and be present in each moment.
Workhuman: Many women believe that balance is about making the most productive use of every single moment.
Lauren: Everyone wants to structure and fill all the empty time. We do not need to schedule every moment of time. Balance is about fulfilling each of the roles we have. To do this, we need to practice self-care. We cannot care for others if we do not care for ourselves. As part of my self-care routine, I carve out time each week for ‘catch-up.’ This is not work time. It’s a half hour to pause, think, and prioritize.
Another thing I do is make lists. A list is a way to get an idea or thought in my head down on paper. Once it’s on a list, it's off of my mind.
Workhuman: What inspires you?
Lauren: Being able to sit at the corporate table, steer the direction of a company, and do that in a way that's meaningful. What also inspires me are the people I work with who are innovative and forward-thinking.
Workhuman: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Lauren: I would say first, ‘You deserve to be here.’ One of the things I struggled with early on as a young woman lawyer was always questioning myself. What I have learned over time is, ‘Yes, I belong here. And yes, I should speak my mind.’
The second piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to slow down. You don't have to do everything every single day. It comes back to balance, being present, and letting yourself off the hook. If you keep it slow and steady, you will get to where you need to be.
Workhuman: What advice would you give women who aspire to be leaders?
Lauren: First, have confidence. All of us have areas where we feel we aren't strong enough. But you must get to a place where you're confident enough to presume you should be in the room.
You also need to be a bit brave and a bit more outspoken. You need to find and own your voice.
Workhuman: Joy is such a critical part of life. What brings you joy?
Lauren: That one is easy – my children. I can't imagine my world without them. Seeing the world through their eyes, especially in this social media digital age, is hilarious, funny, and heartwarming.
The other thing that brings me joy is my work family. I've been at Workhuman for 11 years, working with people who have become like a family to me. They have been right with me, through the good times and the struggles.
Workhuman: When you think of the workplace five years out, what do you think it will look like for women?
Lauren: I hope the workplace will be more balanced. It is frustrating to me that we're still fighting for balance and equality. On the positive side, there is quite a bit of movement in pay equity, so I'm hopeful the situation will improve for women.
I am also hopeful that women will learn that we need to support each other. We had the feminists fighting the fight back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The challenge is once women started to enter the corporate world in force, we forgot to support one another. The more we support each other, the more dialogue we can open up and we can start to be heard.
(Lauren will be panel member on the session entitled “Pay is Personal: How to Address the Gender Pay Gap at Your Company” at WorkHuman 2019, in Nashville, March 18-21.)
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy