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All Places > Women in Business > Blog > 2015 > July
2015

Let me start this by saying, I have extreme discomfort revealing this "complaint" to my fellow Women in Business in our community. My life is blessed and full, with a huge emphasis on FULL.

 

I'm currently planning a wedding that is taking place in a mere two weeks, raising a two-year old boy, working a more-than-full-time job, and trying to balance the relationships in my life by appearing that I have it all together these days. Life is truly amazing. But, the reality is I'm feeling overwhelmed and wondering how I'll ever have time to simply shut my brain off and RELAX.

The fact is, I'm not alone. This is the mantra of every working woman that I talk to these days. Women in business carry a belief that we need to give 110% in the workplace in order to keep up with the "boys club" and in the midst of that, we fear letting go of our expected (though highly outdated) expected responsibilities at home.

 

My home life is incredible. My fiance is a sweet and caring man whose favorite part of the day is cooking dinner for his family and he constantly checks in with me to determine what he can help take off of my plate.

 

My work life is incredible as well. I work with a great team that supports one another and is always looking for ways to be the most effective with time management, and stresses the importance of work/life balance.

 

My son-- well, he's in his terrible two's. I'll leave it at that.

 

When I take a step back and look at the facts, all of my overwhelming stress is not at all a byproduct of the world around me, but is solely the result of my own issue-- Ladies, I am suffering from the Superwoman Complex.

The Superwoman Complex can be defined as one's need to do it all and never ask for help. It's a serious complex that possesses a myriad of results ranging from "I'm amazing, look at all that I have done" to "I am beyond overwhelmed, why can't I get a single person to ever help me".  The Superwoman Complex can be deceptive because of the accolades and "atta girl's" that come along with doing it all, however at the end of the day the typical Superwoman can often feel burnt out, ineffective, and like a failure despite all that's been accomplished in a days work.

 

Where does this dis-ease come from? Why, as women, do we feel the need to do it all?

 

If you've ever watched an episode of Mad Men, you know that the women who came before us in the workplace were viewed as objects. Simply eye candy and assistants for the men, whose only purpose was to do as they're told. Fast-forward through Women's Liberation and ladies rising to the ranks of their male peers and you'll see decades of women attempting to prove themselves as equals, yet still being treated as "less-than". Generations of women who take on more and more, chasing after that equality, yet feeling as though they simply aren't doing enough to be taken seriously. Throw in the maternal instincts of care-taking that most women are equipped with and you have an additional level of responsibilities that need to be managed at home. Simply put? Even the baddest, most together Superwoman still feels as though she isn't doing enough and is failing the people around her, causing her to take on more and more until life becomes unmanageable.

Phew, I'm exhausted just thinking of that downward spiral.

 

So how do we overcome this Superwoman Complex?

 

There are a few things that I have discovered over the last couple of years that help me combat the effects of being a Superwoman. While I will forever be a work in progress, doing these few things as often as I can certainly calms my "crazy":

 

Boundaries - In an effort to be mindful in everything that I am doing, and present with the tasks or people that are in front of me, it's important that I set boundaries for my time. Between 6pm and 9pm, don't expect an email response from me as I am having family time. While I am focusing on a project at work, you'll often see me with headphones on as it's my best defense when needing to be mindful. Point is, it's 100% okay to say "no, I will not answer that email right now" or "Let's talk in an hour, I need to focus". Uphold your boundaries as those are critical to your sanity over time.

 

Gratitude - I am blessed with an amazing group of women in my life that shares a daily gratitude list. For the last three years on a daily basis, we have shared a list of what we are grateful for, what our assets are, and what we are working on for the day via email. This list has 100% changed my perspective on my day-to-day life, and while you can absolutely do a personal list of gratitude on a daily basis, I can assure you that the sisterhood of shared gratitude can strengthen relationships and also allows you the perk of upholding relationships that you may otherwise feel too busy for.

 

Down-time - Speaking for myself, I have to put as much effort into relaxing as I do my home and career. I literally schedule time to relax and insist on an hour of mindless TV or reading every night. That doesn't mean I read books on business-- I force myself to read shallow British Crime Novels and check out completely from all responsibility. While my scheduled downtime can be tough to get done, the work pays off in ten-fold and actually makes me more effective in everything that I do.

 

So, Superwomen of the Marketo Community, what are YOU doing to maintain your sanity and overcome the Superwoman Complex? Any tips on how to keep it all together and still be a Marketing Rockstar? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Sue Bostrom, former Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Cisco, joined Marketo’s Board of Directors in 2012. The headline of the press release read: “Experienced Marketing and Internet Visionary to Support Revenue Performance Management Leader’s Explosive Growth.”

 

Sue is one of the most influential women of her generation and has paved the way for many women in the industry. To earn the title ‘marketing and internet visionary’ is quite impressive; particularly for a woman who grew up the daughter of a farmer in suburban Chicago; whose parents only had a high school education. It’s no surprise that labels have never been something Sue paid much attention to. In fact, she encourages women in business steer clear of them.

 

“I was a first generation college graduate but no one in my family ever thought about it that way,” explains Sue. “There will be times in your life when you're given opportunity. You have two choices: embrace it with all the risks associated with it or move back into your comfort zone. My philosophy has been to run into the opportunity head on and see what happens.”

 

If you have ever had the pleasure to hear Sue speak on a panel or at a conference (click here to read how she was able to overcome the glass ceiling in her Keynote Speech at Marketo’s Summit in 2012) she has the ability to immediately make you feel at ease, the way you would if you were speaking with an old friend. Her genuine demeanor makes her relatable and likable. She combines wit and humor with passion, experience, credibility, and most importantly, confidence, which is not something that comes easily to most.

 

You’ve most likely heard the statistic “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” (Mohr, 2014) I immediately thought of several instances when I didn’t bother applying for a job for that exact reason. I’ve had the opportunity to hear some amazing (and high profile) female leaders speak at our Marketing Nation Summit including Sue in 2012, and their messages have made a big impact on me and my confidence.

 

When asked how she has approached confidence in her career, Sue’s response was classic.

 

“I think to myself, ‘How would a guy approach this?’ Because they are usually more direct and ask for what they want or need” she said. “I figure the worst thing someone can do is tell me ‘no’ and I can survive that.”

 

She went on to give her advice about how women can advocate for themselves. “Be your own harshest critic when evaluating your performance, while also being your biggest fan,” she said. “That's where you gain confidence. When you're armed with that assessment, it's a matter of being direct and asking for what you need. That will make you feel valued, confident and motivated to do a good job.”

 

Besides learning how to be more self-aware, Sue attributes her confidence and success to her biggest role model, her mom, who unfortunately passed away when Sue was 20. She uses heroism to describe her.

 

“There were so many things about the way my mom led her life that have contributed to my ability to push myself to try to be great. She was a risk taker in her own way, she would take on controversial causes, advocate for equality…it had a huge impact on me.”

 

Sue’s mom wasn’t well traveled and spent most of her life in Chicago where she worked full time as an executive assistant while Sue was growing up. But that didn’t matter. She was always the member of their large, extended family who fought for what she believed in, whether that be voting for Kennedy while everyone else was supporting Nixon, or by opening her daughters’ eyes to racism at a time when this was rare.

 

“Never assume you aren't making a difference to the people you interact with,” Sue explained. “My mom’s ability to mold me the way she did in such a short period of time made me realize that.”

 

It is obvious from Sue’s laundry list of accolades, including making Fortune Magazine’s “5o Most Powerful Women in Business” in 2000, that she has not let hardships or risk of failure stand in her way. If anything, she seems to be motivated by them.

 

When she was accepted into Stanford Business School her dad had her uncle call her to discourage her from going. “Beware, sometimes the people that love you the most may discourage you the most…just because they are trying to protect you,” she said.

 

She attended Stanford anyway. Years later she found out her uncle’s concern wasn’t that she wasn’t capable, but that he had heard that Northwestern MBAs weren’t able to find jobs at the time, and he was also concerned about whether women would truly be accepted in the business world. He didn’t want to see her fail.

 

Her uncle now has a scrapbook of all her accomplishments and article clippings, which I can only imagine is the size of a dictionary.

 

With all of her success and notoriety in the technology industry, Sue still makes time to relax and enjoy the simpler things in life. As you can see from her LinkedIn she sits on several boards other than Marketo, including RocketFuel, ServiceNow, Varian Medical Systems and Cadence Design Systems. When asked what she does to relax and take a break from work she said, “There's nothing better than helping someone else to take you away from any troubles in your own life.”

 

She really enjoys her work with non-profit organizations like Stanford Children’s Hospital. She also loves immersing herself in what her kids are doing and helping them in their careers.

 

When she’s not reading the Wall Street Journal (hard copy preferred) to stay up on the latest and greatest in business or her personal favorite, autobiographies, Sue enjoys running, walking her dog, doing needlework, and most recently she and her husband are into Soul Cycle.

 

Sue has made it seem easy to have it all. Graduating from one of the most challenging business schools in the country, climbing her way up the corporate ladder to Executive Vice President and CMO of a $139 billion dollar company, having three kids and staying happily married for over 30 years -- all while maintaining a sense of humor, life balance, and being down-to-earth. My biggest takeaway from speaking with Sue is to never assume you aren’t capable of doing something because anything is possible.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on any of the topics discussed in this blog and I look forward to hearing from you!

Amidst the recent announcements hailing from the US Government and Hollywood (Caitlyn Jenner's transformation, Marriage Equality nationwide) comes another great stride for equality with the statement from the US Treasury department regarding the recent decision to put a woman's portrait on the ten-dollar-bill.

 

The selection of this lucky female is undetermined, and won't be disclosed until the end of the year, but the new note will begin to circulate in 2020 - 100 years after the 19th Amendment which allowed women the right to vote.

 

Awesome, right?

 

Well, I hate to be a killjoy to such an amazing stride for women and overall equality, but it seems a little laughable in the state of our spending in this day and age to finally "award" a woman a place on our cash when we operate in a seemingly cashless society. To be quite honest, I can't remember the last time I had a ten-dollar-bill (or any bill for that matter) as I use debit, credit, or Paypal to pay for literally everything in my life.

 

Despite my cynicism, I do have sincere hope that these leaps and bounds being made in gender equality will provide an impact on a few other areas of our day-to-day lives-- and that the symbolism of putting a woman on the ten-dollar-bill will assist in the other changes that I want to see happen in my lifetime:

 

- The Elimination of the Gender Pay Gap - Women face a pay gap in nearly every occupation and the numbers have barely budged in the last decade. My hope is that my children will always be paid based on their skill sets and experience, and not on their gender.

 

- Better Opportunities for Encouraging Women to Become Leaders - The Let Girls Learn Initiative certainly is a step in the right direction towards empowering young girls to succeed, but oftentimes women in the workplace are still perceived as being "less than" and are not offered the same opportunities for upward growth as their male counterparts.

 

- A Woman Running For President Won't be a Shock - 52 Countries have had a female serve as the head of state in the past 50 years, and the United States was NOT one of the 52.

 

The generations that follow mine have a great opportunity to change the way that women are treated and can show equality in ways that expand far beyond changing the ten dollar bill. Despite the seemingly long road ahead on the path to complete equality, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to share lessons on leadership with my 2-year old son (who will be seven when this bill begins to circulate) and show him that yes, women were finally put on more than the silver dollar, and I hope this only affirms his perspective on women and our worth.