Earlier this summer, I was invited to a really big conference in the blogging and writing community and was at first, hesitant to go. I would need to travel, get a hotel - the whole shebang. But I kept weighing the pros and cons of the education it would provide me for the work I do everyday and finally decided to take the leap - with my entire family in tow.
Yup, the whole conference was at a family friendly resort that offered such an amazing rate that I came to the conclusion that I probably couldn't afford to take my family on this dream vacation for any cheaper, so we just went for it. The weeks leading up to the conference were a bit stressful and my type A personality took full force. I needed to plan our itinerary and find a steady balance between work and family fun so that I felt it was at least a little bit of a vacation for me. Translation: I spent hours everyday cross referencing session times with keynote speakers and pool hours and Disney ticket prices. It was exhausting, but well worth it going into the conference with a plan.
When we arrived, it took all the will I had inside me to actually get to the conference and absorb everything that I wanted to get from it and I realized that there are so many women who have to do this year round whether they have families they can't leave or are single mamas rocking it in the business world. Things aren't always easy when you're traveling for business, so I set out to chat with some business-minded moms who have had dealt with it all to make sure they stay on top of their game.
When there is an emergency
The scariest thing to think about while traveling would be having an emergency of some kind, but life is filled with unexpected things, so sometimes you need to roll with the punches. This is exactly what happened to Nancy J. Horn,owner of The Mama Maven. She said, “I had traveled to Chicago in 2013 for the BlogHer Conference so we could run an event a few days before the conference started. The day after the event I woke up and was vomiting all day (turns out later I had ulcers and something I ate triggered a reaction). I had planned to take my then 5 year old daughter sightseeing, but instead she had to stay in the hotel room all day and watch TV while I slept on the floor of the bathroom. It was awful. I learned that I should have had a back-up plan if something happens. I could have arranged for my friend to come pick up my daughter for the day and I could have gone to an urgent care. Or have a go-bag with activities for a kid in case you have to go to an urgent care (and take your with you)."
Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail
Words of wisdom
Traci Stapleton, Sr. Manager of Client Services at Kalypso offers the ultimate mom mantra for when traveling for business with your family: “You are in control of the pressures. You will never be perfect, you will never be all places or get it all done. Be intentional in the time you have with your family, be attentive and present. Don't beat yourself up chasing unachievable expectations." These are the words that we all need to hear when we're out trying to be the jill-of-all-trades.
When you just can't unplug
Then, there are times when a trip that isn't completely intended to be a work trip, somehow ends up being one. We all know how difficult it is to turn off “work mode", esepcially when you're self-employed, and Natalie Greaves, Writer & Strategic Communications Consultant, Graves Writes learned from an experience she had during a family getaway to her parents' home country of Trinidad & Tobago. “I found myself answering way more work requests than anticipated. Between the beach lime (slang for party) and sampling some of the best curry ever, I had an epiphany: if work was going to follow me, it would be so much easier if I changed the way that I worked. So I quit my job!
As long as I have a solid internet connection and some headphones to jam during my daughter's nap time, I can map out an hour or two daily to get in a marathon session of consulting. We'll up the ante this summer during our next surf trip."
Tips from a pro
Melanie, a single mom to Ellie, and Partner & COO, BDI Events, often brings her daughter along on business trips. While she tries to figure out a plan to keep her at home, life happens, so she often comes along! She recommend to “utilize the hotels network of trusted sitters – they are usually really great and super well vetted (and used to working with random kids!). Keeping kids on their normal time zone, if possible, and pay to bring a friend or family member along… it doubles the cost of the trip, but can be well worth it if it's an important trip or meeting (and might be tax deductible!)."
Organization and thinking ahead is key
Seasoned travel writer, Samantha McNesby, has her kids with her while visiting new places often and while she loves having them with her, being organized and planning ahead is key. “I love bringing my kids along when I travel; they have gotten to see so many amazing places this way! One thing I always do is rent items at our destination – strollers, mini-fridges and more can be rented at many vacation destinations and sent right to your room, so you don't have to struggle with these items at a busy airport or go without. "
And when it comes to luggage, she has a pretty epic tip to share. “We travel a lot, and color coding the kids' luggage is a big help. Each child has their own color or style so we can quickly spot pieces in baggage claim and they know which bag is theirs. Hello Kitty, Star Wars and a few other favorite characters make it easy to spot our pieces in the airport."
Find apps that work for you
Felicia Chanell, owner and Brand Vibe Strategist of Swanked Creative is all about using apps to help keep you organized right down to the smallest details, like food allergies. “Plan every thing you can! I love using Trello to plan everything for an upcoming trip. I create cards/lists for our itinerary, travel details, hotel information, etc. This is perfect for planning activities that will be fun for my 4 year old. I even plan what restaurants have gluten free menu options." And for coordinating client need, “Gsuite/Google Drive for storing everything for my business to access while traveling. GSuite also has unlimited storage on my plan so I can upload photos directly from my phone to the drive to clear up space."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.