Stacey Goldberg, a graduate of the School of Public Health and a successful businesswoman, recently came to the school to speak about her career and the winding road that brought her to her current work in nutrition. I was struck by her assertiveness and frankness as she spoke about her successes and failures with equal conviction. I felt I was getting a rare, truly honest insight into a woman’s experience navigating the professional sphere. She of course spoke inspiringly about following your dreams and persevering through difficult times, but I came away pondering two other thoughts she expressed during her presentation (paraphrasing):
“I had to give myself permission to want to make money, have paid vacation, and be home with my kids by 5.”
She said that in the health and nutrition worlds it can sometimes feel taboo to talk about the financial aspects of our work, there is pressure to make compensation a lower priority than perhaps we would like to. However, Stacey made the point that helping people and earning a living do not have to be mutually exclusive, they can coexist and even reinforce each other. The idea that the permission to desire a comfortable lifestyle comes from within is also an interesting, and in my opinion largely true, concept. Furthermore, it is my impression that this is especially the case for women in the health field. In fact, I see this tension in myself at times. If we can change our view of making money and not see it as the antithesis of social conscience, perhaps we could elevate ourselves to a new kind of success that is imbued with a deeper sense of knowing what we are worth.
“One of the hardest obstacles I’ve dealt with in getting here is when others have mistaken my assertiveness for aggressiveness.”
I believe this is a comment to which women of all personality types can relate. Outgoing or shy, women must deal with the fear of how they will be perceived when expressing strong opinions. To not only get over this fear but to get over it and continue to speak out seems a daunting task to me, but hearing Stacey’s conviction and that over time the positive perceptions have outweighed the negative ones is inspiring. By investing in the professional relationships in which we are positively perceived and even encouraged, and minimizing the relationships that make us doubt ourselves, we could create a career for ourselves in which our voices are heard, appreciated, and utilized.
It is important to hear women like Stacey speak honestly about both the light and dark sides of their professional experiences. We can learn from their mistakes, hear the wisdom behind their successes, and use them as role models as we enter the work force ready to dedicate our time and education to helping others, as well as to unapologetically creating a life for ourselves that is satisfying in whatever ways we need to feel fulfilled and well-rounded.
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