I still recall the day when I graduated as an industrial engineer. There were just eight women in my class, and when I decided to specialize in quality and production issues, I soon faced gender prejudice, as this was typically a "men only" environment. Women were not often allowed to participate, let alone oversee a project, so I was constantly offered work in the management office instead of the production area.
Initially, it was a little frustrating because I saw this invitation as a "convenient" action from the management that would save them the effort of breaking the status quo, keeping a male production team. This discovery shaped my professional development, because it helped me to develop leadership skills and a competitive character to make sure nothing prevented me from obtaining achievements and pursuing my personal goals.
When I joined Accenture, a global professional services company, I received an offer to start a consulting career, where the model involved investing a great number of hours and required a high dedication. As a consultant, your performance is measured in terms of achievement, rather than how much time you spend making things happen. This approach was one of the primary reasons I decided to take the job, since it would mean a great opportunity to decide how to distribute my time and workload and ensure that I felt satisfied with how I handle both my personal and professional life.
Value of a 'safety net'
At the early stages of my career, I had a young son. He was my main motivator to work hard, so I could give him the opportunities in life that I had and even exceed them. To make sure I did not neglect my children, I have to recognize it was a big help having a "safety net" with my husband, my parents' and friends' support, but also it was important to find the same support through my team at the office. At work, it is crucial to feel that you are connected with a group of professionals who understand that your career achievements are just as important as the dedication to your family.
When my oldest son was about to enter junior high school, I thought it was time to stop working and devote my time to raise him in a closer way in this new phase of his life. I was worried to think my son would resent me for not "being there for him" enough because of my job.
When I discussed this idea with my son, he questioned if that was what I really wanted to do, and said "I need a mom who is happy and fulfilled, and I think if you stop working you will feel frustrated." For me that was an eye-opener, because he was right. I was considering a solution to a problem that did not exist yet, and that did not actually solve anything. In that conversation, my teenage son taught me that sometimes we can become our biggest barrier to following our passions.
I recognize that the type of work I do requires its share of sacrifices, but I have also experienced that with proper planning and organization, a number of these sacrifices can be avoided. Whenever I need to recharge and re-energize to continue pursuing new things, I just take a look at pictures of my children, call home or focus on any moment dedicated to my family to remind me why everything is worthwhile.
When women lead, doors open
As the first woman on the leadership team at Accenture in Mexico, I was breaking paradigms, which, fortunately, new generations will face to a lesser extent. As a consultant, I see that inclusion and diversity in talent varies its progress depending on industry or workforce segment. But when women lead and participate actively in the full spectrum of business, we help to change mentalities and open doors for a more inclusive environment of talent at all levels.
Fortunately, leaders are now aware of the importance of having diversity of talent as a key business component. I like to think that my experience and knowledge will allow me to help younger women progress and balance their career, while pursuing personal goals like continue studying, getting married or starting a family.
At this stage of my career, I hope I can serve as an example at work and within the industry as a leader. More importantly, I am an example for my children, of how a woman can achieve her career goals without losing her essence.
There will always be people who will try to discourage you from doing things that seem difficult or impossible, but as long as your goals are clear and you put passion in everything you do, these detriments will disappear and you will, little by little, make your dreams come true. Bet on yourself, always strive and always give your best.