How Quitting My Corporate Career Inspired Me To Become Healthier Than Ever
When I finally earned the $100K salary that I’d been working on for my entire career, I decided to quit my job.
Don’t get me wrong - that job was great. Best I’d ever had. I was on the senior management team of a world-wide luxury ski resort company. I was in charge of Digital Products, working with great people on great projects. The benefits were amazing, we skied all the time, and I had finally reached my biggest salary goal. So what the hell was I thinking?
Well, I guess I hadn’t ever really thought beyond that salary target. Now that that goal was met, I finally took a moment to reevaluate my career. The more I thought about it, the more clear it became that working in corporate just wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t sure exactly what WAS right for me, but I thought running my own digital shop would be a lot closer to the mark. So I eventually tendered my resignation, and without really having much of a plan, I left the world of corporate safety and with my husband, co-founded a software development agency.
Like all of the entrepreneurs that have come before me, I quickly learned that the IDEA of starting a business and the initial honeymoon phase vs. the day-to-day PRACTICE of actually running your own shop are drastically different things.
A business is born
In the first year of business I was super enthusiastic and excited about creating something from nothing. Whenever I had the chance to sit down in front of mentors, I would ask questions like “How do you predict cash flow in a service-based business?” or “How do you access high-dollar clients?”
By the second year, in addition to the business, we had a new baby, plus employees, expenses, and overhead. We needed bigger clients and more projects to keep the engine turning. As the head of Client Services (including Business Development and Client Success) I was person who was in charge of finding, closing, and keeping the new business. I felt a huge responsibility to keep it all going. My line of questioning with my mentors had taken a sharp turn towards deeper things like “How do you keep going when you get too many no’s in a row?” “How do you put on a brave face for your employees when you are worried about making payroll?” “How do you keep yourself RIGHT when the pressure gets so heavy?”
Why do I feel so down?
In addition to asking other women, I also began to research the world of women in leadership roles. And as it turns out, what I was feeling was very common, and could be clearly linked to some unsettling facts:
FACT: Women are underrepresented in business leadership.
As we know, business leaders are still overwhelmingly men. In the US, women were nearly half (46.8%) of the labor force, but only slightly over a third (39.2%) of managers in 2015. And this gets worse and worse as you climb the corporate ladder, until you reach the executive suite, where we find women accounting for a scant 5% of CEO roles on the S&P 500. So women don’t see their peers at the top levels of their companies. Got it.
FACT: Equal work does not mean equal pay.
Women are underpaid, making just $0.78 to a man’s dollar. Black women earn $0.63 and Latina women earn just $0.54 to a man’s dollar. OK, so you do the same job but you earn less for it. Hmmm.
FACT: Women are subjected to routine harassment and objectification at work.
You would have to be living under a rock to have missed the massive women’s movements that are regular in the news and on social media. The Women’s March, #MeToo, and #TimesUp are just the beginning of women starting to take back some of their power. This is hugely important and long overdue. The stories - and the numbers - are almost unbelievable. Studies show that almost HALF of all women have faced sexual harassment at work. 48% percent of women who are currently employed in the U.S. say they have experienced either sexual, verbal or physical harassment in the workplace. Horrifying.
FACT: Women in leadership are at a 9% higher risk of depression.
Perhaps the most troubling thing (that hit closest to home for me) I came across is a study by a sociologist named Tetyana Pudrovska at the University of Texas. She performed a study that had found that women in leadership were much more likely to experience depression than men in leadership. Despite showing “strong predictors of positive mental health, these women were worse off than their subordinates. Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders…. ….But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine. This contributes to chronic stress." Well, that sucks. But what’s worse is that we in American society don’t even talk about this, let alone DO ANYTHING about it.
So what's the resolution?
Seeing these facts laid out so clearly really rocked me. But rather than focusing on the bad stuff, I wanted to figure out what women in leadership could do to feel better. What could I personally do to feel better? And not just “feel better”, but feel GREAT. For me, the answer was in healthy living.
Health and fitness has always been an important part of my life, but it was also the first thing to fall off the priorities list when things get tough. It’s not a big secret that choosing to be healthy is beneficial for you and everyone else who depends on you. But women are notorious for giving too much of themselves away and having nothing left for self-care. When you are so busy with work/home/spouse/kids/pets and everything else, it can be really hard to spare even an hour for yourself. I felt like I needed encouragement, or even permission, to take care of myself.
Self-care is key
Even though I never felt like I had enough time, I decided that I would make changes to create more time. Instead of sleeping in, I chose to get up earlier to meditate before the baby woke up. I made my lunchtime gym sessions non-negotiable, and asked my employees and clients to honor that time as sacred for me. I ate healthy during the day and didn’t deprive myself of a drink or two at night, as that's part of how I like to unwind. I made it non-negotiable to prioritize my “me” time.
Turns out it’s not a luxury to take that time - it is a serious necessity, as important as drinking water or eating food. I felt better, and became primed to more efficiently and effectively handle my responsibilities. I felt better, I looked better, my outlook changed, and things started to gel. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So, so true.
What are other women leaders doing?
After experiencing this myself, I became fascinated with stories of other women in leadership. I vowed to connect with as many amazing women as I possibly could. I wanted to better understand what they do to keep themselves sane, what their definition of “healthy” is, and create pathways for mutual inspiration around fitness and health.
That’s why I founded Healthy Women Leaders - to share that simple truth and develop a critical mass of like-minded women. Women who UNAPOLOGETICALLY choose to take care of themselves first, so that they are better able to sustainably lead in work and at home. The world is really calling for this right now, dontcha think?
I won’t pretend to have a magic bullet answer that will solve the social issues that are so negatively affecting women. However, I do believe we can help the women that are affected by shining light on what’s going down and what we can do to feel better. That’s what Healthy Women Leaders is here for.
Healthy Women Leaders
We create a forum (online and in person) that brings women leaders together for community, connection, education and inspiration around all things health. We try new fitness classes, learn about healthy eating, mindfulness, and other things we can do to stay whole. We explore stories of other kick-ass women, to learn what they’ve picked up along their journey and explore how that might also inspire and educate us. And we raise a glass (or two for me!) to congratulate each other on taking steps to do and feel and be better. We come together to lift eachother up and step towards normalizing healthy women in leadership.
I am a proud healthy woman leader and I hope you’ll become one too.