Submitted by Megan Wood
My role in International Education demands significant travel and each week my schedule is quite variable. Due to those characteristics I have often been asked if I can keep my job and be a mother. Yes I can! (And for the record I don’t know any male counterparts that have been asked the same question.) The reason this works is threefold: I am determined, I love what I do, and I feel supported by my organization, my colleagues and my family and friends.
In the article by Daisy Wademan Dowling, The Best Ways Your Organization Can Support Working Parents, I think the most important takeaway for managers and organizational leadership is to ASK employees how they need to be supported in order for them to be successful at home and at work. For me, success at home and success at work truly go hand in hand. I recently discovered that when I am doing what is best for my family I am also most capable of serving the mission and goals of my organization. I think when employees are given a venue to discuss their personal needs it can often lead to opportunities to meet organizational goals as well. Dialogue is a key ingredient to this success. With my first child I had negotiated with my boss to work through my summer “off” so that I could flex that time to use for maternity leave without sacrificing my pay. In return I hit the road when my child was just six weeks old, traveling with the whole family in tow. This allowed me to spend the first six weeks with my child at home, not lose out on my salary, and get back to work sooner with the support of my husband, who was able to adjust his own leave to accommodate my travel schedule. Because my boss was willing to work with my needs it didn’t require the organization to have someone fill in for me during our busiest time of year. It allowed my family to stay together while I traveled for work. My husband was also able to blaze a trail within his organization for paternal leave. Others have since followed by his example. By working with our respective managers we were able to create a winning combination for our family and our work.
Family is a common area where many people can often use support, but there are a multitude of other personal pursuits for which employees could use the support of their organization in order to increase their balance between life and work. Supporting employees, which enhances loyalty and in turn productivity, really extends into the area of organizational wellness. This is something to which we see many larger companies -- thought leaders like Google and Facebook -- allocating extensive resources. These ideas and programs could be easily replicated within smaller organizations. This article highlights these opportunities through its cost-conscious recommendations.
My husband and I had a motto when our first child was born, “Don’t be a hero.” What that meant to us was to remember to ask for help -- we are in this together. We find success in leaning on each other and find the best outcomes and best “us” when we ask for help. We can truly have it all, but we don’t have to do it all by ourselves!
About the Commentator: Megan Wood is a Field Director with IFSA-Butler and is based in New Hampshire. Prior to her work with IFSA-Butler she was a University Relations Manager with SIT Study Abroad and Program Coordinator at UT San Antonio. She holds a Master of Arts in International Education from the SIT Graduate Institute. She is married with two amazing boys, Cameron and Benjamin.
About the Contributor: Mariette Thomas is the Associate Director of Study Abroad and International Programs at Tulane University's Freeman School of Business. She holds a Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations from the Intercultural Communication Institute / University of the Pacific. She is a passionate advocate for women's empowerment and a proud member of the Global Leadership League.
- If you are a director or a manager, what steps can you take to ensure that your institution/organization is a fair and equitable one?
- If you are a working parent, what resources and support are available at your institution/organization? How can you maximize resources at your disposal?
- How could a network like GLL help break the barriers that working parents face in the field of international education?