By: Sarah Owens
Latane Conant, CMO at Appirio, has encountered many myths and misconceptions about being a woman in the workplace. Specifically, the idea that women need to exhibit stereotypically masculine qualities to get ahead, and that a work-life balance is impossible to attain.
At one point in her career, Latane was charged with planning a workshop for a client that happened to fall on Valentine’s Day. Putting her fun personality to good use, she planned a Valentine’s Day themed workshop with activities, props, and presentation materials that all fell within the theme. The night before the presentation, a male executive called Latane to inform her that the entire workshop she planned was unprofessional, and that he ran it past another female executive “for perspective” — and she agreed.
Don’t fit into glass slippers, shatter glass ceilings
Latane was faced with two choices: change the presentation or stick to her guns. She knew the client well and knew they would love the themed workshop, so she decided to stick to her guns — she thanked the executive for the feedback, but said the client was expecting this presentation. Latane emphasised that it was her job to know the customer and make their engagements exciting and fun and — if it didn’t go well, then they could discuss how to move forward.
The presentation went well and both Latane and this executive used it as a learning opportunity going forward. Looking back, she said she feels the experience helped her gain confidence in going with her gut feelings — and sees her creative, traditionally feminine personality as an asset, not something she needs to filter.
Customers value authenticity
“Building a client relationship is about trust and honesty, so if you mask who you are you can never truly get close to clients.. It’s hard to build that trust if you’re hiding something about yourself. Being myself is one of the things that has made me most successful in my career,” said Latane.
The executive from this story notes that it was this very experience that taught him to let people do their thing, and see their true personality as an asset to the team.
Latane also lived through the experience of having two children within two years — something that could stall or slow down a woman’s career. For two years straight she only worked nine months out of the year, yet was still able to earn promotions during that time. She was also able to switch her schedule to work three days a week while her children were young. Latane was able to work hard, move up in her organization, and still be an engaged parent.
Balancing work and foster parenting
Elizabeth Friedland, Director of Communications at Appirio, is a single foster mother. She agrees that work-life balance as a parent is indeed possible — especially when working for a company that values its workers and offers flexible working styles.
As an example, one day Elizabeth’s childcare fell through at the last minute. Unable to find a substitute babysitter in time, Elizabeth brought her four-month-old foster son to the office. While at first she was nervous about how her colleagues would react, she was soon put at ease; her coworkers not only lined up to help feed and watch the baby while Elizabeth led her meetings, but even her boss praised her bring-the-baby-to-work move as one that showed dedication to both parenthood and her career. Rather than being penalized for it, it was seen as a positive.
“Appirio empowers its employees to work wherever and whenever works best for them, their teams, and their customers. We’re given the freedom to do our best work, without having to worry about clocking in and out at certain times, or having to always be in the office. I’ve found I’m more productive — and much happier — when I’m able to take control of my own schedule. As a result, I’m able to be a single foster mother, which is something I’m very passionate about. Being able to work from home — or frankly anywhere with an internet connection — allows me to balance the demand of foster parenting with my career. Appirio doesn’t make me sacrifice one for the other.”