Culture 02 May 2019
Ready to embark on a new chapter in her life, the newly-wed actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas recently interviewed three inspiring women who have shattered glass ceilings in their respective fields of work.
In her half hour YouTube special "If I Could Tell You Just One Thing," Chopra sat down with Simone Biles, Awkwafina, and Diane Von Furstenberg to ask them about one piece of advice that has made them the women they are today.
The Quantico star first interviewed Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast to date, and asked her about her experience dealing with the expectation to always be perfect. Biles expressed that dealing with people's expectations has been the hardest part of her career thus far. "I feel like if I don't meet their needs then I failed," she confessed. Even after winning four gold medals in the Olympics, Biles was hard on herself after receiving criticism for only winning a bronze medal.
Biles credited therapy for not only helping her deal with the pressure she has been constantly put under by the world and even herself, but for also having helped her heal as a victim of sexual abuse from her then coach, Larry Nassar. Despite the hardships she faced coming out as a victim of sexual abuse, Biles did not regret her decision. "I feel like I'm a stronger woman today and I feel like telling my story has helped younger girls," she expressed.
When Chopra asked her what her one piece of advice would be, Biles said "If I could say one thing it's risk-taking." Taking risks has helped her realize who she was as a person and taught her more about herself.
For her next interview, Chopra met up with one of her favorite stars, Awkwafina, who most recently starred in the box office hit, "Crazy Rich Asians." Awkwafina shared that despite her success, she hasn't felt like a different person because of it. She stated, "When you think about going through such an immense change in your life, you think that everything is going to change but the truth is you're the same person, you're just going through different things."
Curious as to how Awkwafina's comedic nature developed, Chopra asked the star if her talent grew from a place of hurt. Awkwafina confessed that after losing her mother at a young age, she used comedy as a defense mechanism to prevent people from seeing her as an "emblem of sorrow." She wanted to make people laugh and feel joy. The comedian also confessed that another thing she has struggled with throughout her life has been people categorizing her under the typical Asian stereotypes of being quiet, shy, and fragile.
When asked what her one piece of advice would be, Awkwafina offered up some words of wisdom that her beloved grandmother had given her. "Life is only a series of ups and downs. When you go up there's nowhere to go but down and when you're down, there's nowhere to go but up," she said. They are words that Awkwafina not only finds to be relevant to her life today, but are words that she has and will continue to live by.
For her final visit, Chopra stopped by the home of famous designer Diane Von Furstenberg, to talk about life, love, and success. After getting married, starting a business, and having a child at age 22, and another child the following year, life seemed to be perfect for Von Furstenberg. She described the love between she and her then husband as being "very sweet," but believed that part of the reason why the marriage did not last was because she wanted something more. "I wanted a man's life in a woman's body. That was my dream," the designer confessed.
On the topic of getting older, the designer stated that, "At my age now, I want to use my voice to tell all women that they, too, can be the woman they want to be...'Cause I've never met a woman who's not strong. They don't exist." Despite being a strong woman, Von Furstenberg admitted that she still has days where she doesn't feel on top of her game even if the world sees her on top. However, she finds solace in knowing that life is simply full of ups and downs.
When Chopra asked what her one piece of advice was, Von Furstenberg said, "The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself." Working on that relationship comes before your relationship with anyone else.
Despite how much success these women have achieved, they have still endured their share of hardship battling sexism, stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations. Although their lives have been vastly different from one another, their overall message is the same—work on loving and owning who you are, take risks in order to become the woman you want to be, and know that life will drag you down sometimes, but you will always stand up stronger.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.