Growing up, I believed it when I was told I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Yet, early in my career, I struggled to meet my personal standards for success as a businesswoman and a mother. I wanted to be fully dedicated to both roles but, instead, I was consumed with guilt that I wasn’t living up to my expectations for either role.
One day, I decided to leave work early to attend a function at my child’s preschool. As a new director, I was afraid my absence would be perceived by others as a lack of commitment. To my surprise, my leader encouraged me to go. That day, he helped me realize that fear shouldn’t keep me from communicating what I need to be successful—whether it’s as a businesswoman or as a parent.
Today, as a leader of 200 employees in Finance, and as a mother of three, I still believe it’s possible to do anything I put my mind to, but only with a strong team at work and a great support system at home. For me, work/life balance isn’t achieved every day or once and for all; it’s a daily game of prioritizing and evaluating what will be important minutes, months, and years from now.
When I leave on a business trip nowadays, I don’t feel guilt. While my children may be upset for a few minutes, I know the tears won’t last long with my husband managing things at home. Likewise, if a last-minute meeting comes up during the mothers’ sing-a-long at school, I’m no longer hesitant to delegate the meeting. It’s because years from now I want my children to remember I was there with the rest of the moms for that special moment.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I come from a family of strong women. My great-grandmother Rhea graduated from college in 1924 with a degree in education at a time when less than eight percent of women attended college. She was an inspiration to me and my mother, who is also a teacher. Together, they taught me the value of an educated opinion and the power of my own voice. My mother, especially, encouraged me to look at all sides of an issue and consider other viewpoints. I learned from her how to debate an issue, but still show respect for people. I grew to believe in myself, because her confidence in me never wavered.
Tatum’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Seek and accept new opportunities, especially if they will stretch your skill set. Believe in your own ability to learn new things. Lead in a way that is authentic to who you are. Although you can learn from other leadership styles, you will not be able to motivate and inspire if you don’t do it from the heart. Invest your time in building relationships and maintaining a positive attitude, and results will follow.