Despite their increased acceptance in the industry and the fact that they’re inherently wired for leadership roles, women executives admit that they still grapple with an inferiority complex at times — that inner voice that tells them they aren’t good enough or they don’t deserve their success. 

“We all go back to those tapes of our mothers saying it’s not polite to ask for something,” says Sewell. “We must realize it’s not braggadocious or impolite to ask for what we deserve. Don’t forget your value, and share it in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re tooting your own horn.” 

Allie recalls the early days when she would come home from work feeling discouraged or inadequate and question her ability to run a business. Her mantra then was ‘put people before profit’ — and it still rings true today. 

“When I thought about the people under my employ — the lives I was helping to build — it would give me the encouragement to keep going and not give up,” she says. 

No doubt, finding a work-life balance is still one of women’s greatest challenges. Many in upper management divulge that they were riddled with guilt early on in their careers because they felt they were shortchanging their families. Fortunately, women tend to gain more freedom and flexibility to set their own schedules as they ascend the corporate ladder. Additionally, men’s roles in childcare have evolved, allowing more women to pursue career opportunities that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. 

“In today’s reality, both parents are working and taking more time for family and balance,” notes Sally Schopmeyer, president of Maintenance Inc., Dallas. “When you go to sports practices, recitals or school events, there are as many fathers as mothers. The balance of parental responsibilities has evolved greatly.” 

For Schopmeyer, achieving a work-life balance means staying present in the moment and focusing on the task at hand. 

“When my children were younger, I was determined to be ‘on’ at whatever I was engaged in at the time, and I still do that today,” she says. “When I was at work, I was focused on work. And when I was home, I was actively involved in conversations and paid attention to what was right in front of me. Learn to enjoy being in the moment, because if you only focus on emails and phone calls, you miss the good stuff.” 

Weg blocks off her calendar after 3:30 p.m. three days a week to focus on her children and their activities. She has also learned to put her foot down so that she can spend nights and weekends with her family. 

“I used to feel guilty about saying no to work events, but now I’m okay with it,” she says. “You can’t be everything to everyone. You must choose what’s going to be the most impactful for your business and your family.” 

For Weg, work-life balance is as much about self-care as it is about finding time for family. She encourages other women to make themselves a priority and find time every day for healthy habits that center them, such as journaling or meditation. 

Better Together 

In general, women tend to be perfectionists who eschew help — but those in leadership positions have learned to rely on others for support, particularly during trying times. 

“I’m always trying to surround myself with people that know it better than me,” says Allie. “Come down from your ego, take a step back, and remind yourself that you don’t know it all. If you think you know it all, you’re setting yourself up for failure.” 

Undoubtedly women empower other women, which is why female leaders often gravitate toward likeminded women. Sewell recommends finding a mentor, a group of female friends, or joining groups like the ISSA’s Hygieia Network, an organization that provides education, mentoring, networking and support programs to help women succeed in the workplace. 

“My advice to women in leadership is to lift up other women and share your journey,” she says. “Be honest and vulnerable, and share your doubts. Tell other women the real story — what the stumbling blocks are and the things you did that probably weren’t a great idea. This is especially inspirational for younger women, because they see and have access to female leaders on the same career pathway as them.” 

Schopmeyer echoes this sentiment, adding that women leaders and those pursuing leadership positions should support each other in all situations and practice kindness. 

“Be tough and assertive when it’s appropriate, but respect every person and the job they are doing at whatever level they happen to be at,” she says. “Nobody starts at the top. Keep moving forward, and help others along the way.” 

Kassandra Kania is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits. 

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