Boardroom Boundaries And The Women Who Break Them
It’s a week like any other. On Thursday morning, she’s heading up a team meeting to finalize the social media plan for one of the many iconic brands she represents (one you’ve probably heard of and liked on Facebook). She spends the rest of the day making critical decisions for her clients and the teams that report to her.
As the Director of Social Communications for the world’s largest PR firm, Jackie Danicki rarely has a moment to herself during the work week. Each meeting adds priorities to her never-ending to-do list. But she loves it. During the few minutes she snags for lunch on Friday, she whips out her smartphone and scans casually through flight options. After a few minutes of that, she hurries off for the one o’clock in which she’ll be making the pitch for a prospective client.
And just as many stressed, successful and weekend-hungry female executives at the end of the day on Friday, Danicki takes off.
Only she’s not taking off in the direction of home to spend time with the kids or relax on the couch with a good book. By some time on Saturday, this female executive wakes up in Cairo. Or Israel. Or Africa. It is a week like any other, after all.
Danicki is part of a growing subset of accomplished executive women who have discovered that the boardroom is simply not enough. While most women who earn their spot at the table enjoy a good challenge at the office (that’s usually one of the requirements to get there in the first place), this particular group of women also have adrenaline, curiosity and ambition pumping through their blood all the time. All the time as in Monday…all the way through Sunday.
Take for instance, Raquel Castillo, Media Director of Growthink, Inc, a business planning firm and investment bank. Castillo learned early in her career that she needed an intense hobby not just for the benefits of fitness but also as a stress reliever. When she lived in New York City, she was a professional Latin dancer (if you don’t think this is extreme, try out her heels some time!). After moving away from the city, she had to find something new. That’s when she discovered rowing.
What started as a curiosity has blossomed into a lifestyle. When Castillo leaves her team at the office, she jumps on board with her rowing team and competes regularly with them. In fact, they won the regatta they competed in just last summer. And just like so many other women who need more challenge than the boardroom can provide – Castillo says, “It feels great being a winner at work during the week and then a rowing champ on the weekends!”
Statistics show that the average runner of the marathon is an affluent, college-educated woman who logs more than 1,300 miles a year in training. I took this statistic and dug a little deeper into the life of that woman and learned that marathons are just the tip of the iceberg. Because women today are different. As we all know, many are taking longer to get married and have children in order to push their careers farther. These same women are also taking on more challenging activities to push themselves farther.
According to fellow Forbes Contributor, J. Maureen Henderson, the millennial woman today is also very different, with 94% believing they can achieve a balance in their personal and professional lives. And where are they getting this notion? Well, many got it from their norm-pushing moms. But even more are getting it from the women who came before them and are now part of the executive boards at the companies in which they work.
Some aren’t (or don’t want to be) as spontaneous as Danicki or as physically intense as Castillo. But they’re just as extreme. Like Executive Director of the Council for Watershed Health, Nancy Steele. By day, Steele is responsible for the Los Angeles regions’ trusted hub for essential watershed research and analysis. She manages a team of 17 and a budget of $3 million with the ultimate goal of making Los Angeles a sustainable region. Challenge enough, right?
By night, however, Steele becomes a beekeeper. No, that’s not a typo. She’s a beekeeper. When Steele leaves her Executive Director hat at the office, she dons a protective one so she can manage 200 bees and 60 beehives alongside her husband in one of the most bee-friendly areas in the U.S. – Los Angeles. On weekends, you can find this successful woman at a co-op or farmer’s market selling her minimally-processed (and what sounds to be absolutely delicious) honey. Whereas some of the women in this story need an adrenaline-heavy past time, Steele prefers to remain connected to the earth and grounded to the land around her. It’s true that bee-keeping is hard work and involves odd working hours. And when you couple that with the role she has at the Council, it’s all the more tedious – but Steele would never trade it.
Fellow Forbes Contributor, CNBC Career Expert and founder of Six Figure Start, Caroline Ceniza-Levine spends her weekends immersed in comedy. You can even catch her some nights performing in shows with a group called Comic Diversity. She finds that having a three-dimensional background is a great networking tool and conversation starter. And really, who doesn’t wish more business-savvy comedienne’s made it to networking events (that would make them so much better!)?
And then there’s Founder of Things In Place and organizing expert on the show Hoarders (ok, so we know she definitely has a challenging job), Standolyn Robertson. On a weekend trip to a festival years ago, Robertson spent more time admiring the vintage campers fair goers brought with them than she did enjoying the actual event. A passion was born. Robertson has already completed two restorations of vintage campers and is hoping for a third. She calls these tiny campers her “debrief” spaces because they allow her to unwind, unplug and step away from the daily grinds of life. And she uses the restoration process to get creative, by returning them to their original splendor and adding modern-day efficiency like solar panels.
Sara Gates, CEO and Founder of WiseGate, an Austin-based high tech start up, is extreme in an entirely different way. She takes silent retreats. A practitioner of hot yoga up to six times a week, Gates first realized her desire to experience this kind of extreme activity while on a plane next to a man who told her about a week he spent at a monastery. She knew instantly she had to try it. And when she did, the woman who could comfortably speak in front of thousands at a conference became terrified at spending a week unplugged, in silence. Though they still produce angst, she has made it part of her rhythm to attend these retreats several times a year. As the CEO to her own company, Gates has found these retreats have taught her to remain calm and quiet when she’s feeling uncomfortable – because starting a business is, well, very uncomfortable at times.
Scholastic’s Vice President of International Product Development, Edie Perkins, might shock you as well. Many of us run half-marathons and marathons, but Edie Perkins wins them. Like the Bermuda Marathon where she won her first cash prize or the NYC Marathon where she came in 30th for all women and 8th out of the Americans.
So why do they do it? Well, for a variety of reasons.
Because of the high stress that comes along with a seat in the boardroom, many find these activities relieve stress. Others leave the office to put themselves into more stressful situations, because the challenge itself is fascinating and leads to self-improvement. Some do it to to fend off Attention Deficit Disorder, a trait not uncommon in many CEOs. And then still there are those who, because they spend all day being driven by the to-do list, making powerful decisions and never having a moment to think, want to spend their off time simply reflecting.
If you haven’t yet made it to the boardroom, know that the women who exist there don’t spend one hundred percent of their immersed in the business discussed at the table. If they did, they wouldn’t be half as good at what they do. These are the people you should think of when we talk about work-life balance…because they own it.
But really, no matter where you are in the company, if you haven’t yet found a way to make the work-life thing happen, I hope these amazing women inspire you to get started.
Molly Cain, is a banker, CEO of GlassHeel.com, and an award-winning communicator with a passion for bringing a bit of creativity into the workplace. When she’s not at the office or on Glass Heel, Molly’s running half-marathons, traveling or hanging out with her retired racing greyhounds. Follow Molly on Twitter @MollyCain.