Balance for Better – and What It Means for Women in the Workplace

Melody Wolff, Chief Everything Officer, Briz Media Group

I’ll admit that when I first heard that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day was “Balance for Better,” I was confused. Work-life balance, gender parity, more diversity in the workplace? But it is really a perfect encapsulation of the struggle that women face, because each interpretation speaks to a different challenge we deal with on a daily basis.

As a working mother of a young son, I am incredibly lucky to have the support system that I do. But I also know what it’s like to have to take after hour calls from the lobby of my apartment building in order to not disturb the baby; and to come home after a long day of meetings to pools of vomit and an emergency trip to the doctor. I know what it’s like to be silenced by men in meetings, and the tenacity it takes to make my voice heard.

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was the first to make me truly evaluate what it means to be a woman in the workplace, and the steps we all must take in order to be taken seriously. While Sandberg is a widely known figure, there are so many women in my life that  inspire me on a daily basis. For example, my neighbor Lauren has two young children, a husband whose job means he can’t come home till 2AM, and no family nearby. Yet she’s able to walk the dog, drop the baby off at daycare and the older child at school, and still be in her office by 8AM – and repeat it in the evening. She makes it look easy, yet it’s anything but.

One of the responsibilities I feel is the duty to support other women professionally. We need women to speak up in meetings when they feel their female colleagues have been ignored, and help to empower them and have their voices heard. My friend Emily once cut a conference call short because one of the men on the line was demeaning a woman addressing the group. Speaking up and supporting fellow woman when they are being treated unfairly needs to be a common occurrence for women in the workplace.

We need women to create professional networks other women can go to for advice, networking and other career opportunities. My colleague, Aurelie, who is a business owner and a mother of two, and has held senior level positions at some of the biggest companies in the world, has been there to give me advice, challenge me professionally, and encourage me to step outside of my professional comfort zone. We need to listen to each other, and validate our voices and ideas.

Finally, I’d like to extol the virtues of female professional groups. In all industries, especially those dominated by men, being able to connect with other women is a great way to make your voice heard. My sister Skylar is on the board of the Women’s Energy Network in New Orleans. Given that the energy industry is predominantly run by men, it’s especially in need of organizations to empower women. We are all strong and powerful independently, but when we come together, we can make a noticeable difference.

About the Author: At Briz Media Group, Melody is responsible for everything from new business to account management. She has over ten years of experience elevating the profile of organizations and executive leadership on a global basis, through the creation and implementation of innovative marketing and communications programs that drive brand awareness, media coverage, client loyalty, lead generation and customer acquisition. She has a proven track record for creating and seamlessly executing events, public relations and social media campaigns, strategic partnerships, content creation and thought leadership development at companies, including Grey Advertising, DDB Worldwide and Interbrand.