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If women struggling to strike the right “work life balance” are to succeed in making their bosses, families and themselves happy, they must start by scrapping that unattainable, impossible goal. That was a critical piece of advice Christie Hunter Arscott – an award-winning advisor, speaker and author – shared with a room packed with women and a sprinkling of men during her keynote speech. The day-long event also featured the Quad Cities WLC Athena Award and Women of Influence luncheon, followed by additional afternoon speakers. During the early morning session, Ms. Hunter Arscot called the often touted “work life balance” an “elusive ideal at best.” The author of the book “Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career,” also said it’s time for women to “flip the script” and find other ways to address burnout and the feeling of being pulled in too many different directions. Her hour-long conversation also dropped in exercises including asking women at each table to share something deeply personal about themselves. “I hear a lot of laughter,” she said, before urging attendees to stay in contact to support one another and seek similar deeper connections elsewhere in their lives. “No woman is an island and we can’t go it alone.” For women who are juggling work and home life and getting burned out because of it, Ms. Hunter Arscott promised, there is hope. But it’s not by seeking an unattainable “work-life balance,” which is something she said she has been asked about for as long as she’s been working in the gender space. Instead, she said, “I flip it for a topic I know is actionable and realistic.” That’s optimization, she said, and it starts with asking the people in your lives what they want so you can invest in the things that really matter and stop worrying about the ones that don’t. “The key is so simple,” she said. “Ask, don't assume.” “Did you ever ask your boss what matters?” she asked. “Did you ever ask your husband and family what matters?” She added that women and their bosses should reassess who is affected by family struggles in the workplace. Despite what some co-workers and bosses might say, employees don’t have to have children to have trouble juggling work with a happy home life, she added. In that way, today’s work-life balance focus hurts people without children more because they are called on to cover the difficult shifts or work more hours so employers can accommodate workers who have children. As for the overall work-life balance struggle, she warned: “There’s never going to be balanced lives, particularly in our increasingly blurred” post-COVID-19 lives. So, “no more scales.” Instead, women should think of their time like a wallet and the bills in it as time to invest. “Tell yourself, I have a limited amount of time and I want to invest those dollars in the things that will give me the greatest return,” she said. The feedback you get from your bosses, your family and your co-workers, as well as your own personal priorities will help you decide how much time you devote to each of those things. She also urged women – who still are responsible today for most childcare and household duties – to work with a spouse to share some of those jobs. For example, she suggested, ask your husband to do the laundry for a few months, then revisit it to see how it worked out. Couples may also find outsourcing some jobs works better. She also urged the audience to live “An Outbox Life.” Don’t be a slave to your inbox during your off hours, she said. Create a plan for how much time you're going to spend on our everyday life and on your computer and in your email. Stop trying to get balance and optimize your time, she said. “The wallet is in your hands. Spend it wisely.” Thursday’s event featured other speakers including Tamera Mowry-Housley, author of the new book “You Should Sit Down for This.” Ms. Mowry-Housley is an actress and television personality known for roles in “Sister, Sister,” “Twitches,” “Tia & Tamera,” as a co-host on “The Real,” and as host of Prime Video’s “Dr. Seuss Baking Show.” And the WLC award winners are: The highlight of the 20220 convention was, of course, once again the awards luncheon. Bonnie Ballard, this year’s Athena Award winner, used her acceptance speech to celebrate others who, like her, are agents of change in their communities. “Do you know why we as women are better leaders?” the retired educator, disability advocate and longtime NAACP leader asked the crowd of 525 attending the event and 100 more who viewed it online. “Because we know how to get things done.” She and the others honored Thursday spanned all ages. In all, nine outstanding Quad Cities women leaders were celebrated. Brittany Kyles, KWQC’s weekday morning reporter/digital anchor, emceed the conference, presented by 2022 sponsor Bank of America. This is the 16th year the Quad Cities has highlighted the Athena awards, which this year are presented by Arconic. The WLC organization later added the Women of Influence and Emerging Leader Awards to honor women supporting women. The event featured videos about all of the award winners. Accepting the Emerging Leader Award was Melissa Church, Digi-Buzz/Bad Science Jokes, who boasts 1 million followers across the web. In addition to her posts, she also helps entrepreneurs who lack resources to create their own social media presence. “Their dreams are within reach,” she said. “I have to help” them reach their goals. In addition, the seven Quad Cities women who were chosen as Women of Influence in 2022 are:
- Megan Brown-Saldana, executive director of Lead(h)er QC, who calls herself “a plate-spinning, stereotype-busting, glass ceiling-breaking agent of social change.” She sees her role as helping women “choose your job and overcome hard things.”
- Monica Kruse has worked for Meridian Title Company – a business focused on community volunteer service – since 1991. She was inspired to become a dedicated volunteer while working with her son and family at King’s Harvest Homeless Shelter.
- Mary Macumber Schmidt is the president of Trinity Health Foundation, where she leads fundraising, donor development and stewardship activities for UnityPoint Health-Trinity. Previously, she served as president of Family Resources, Inc.
- Ann Schwickerath has been the director of Project Renewal in Davenport since 1994. The organization develops and implements after-school and summer youth activities and recruits and volunteers to help mentor students.
- Tyla Sherwin-Cole took over as director of the Doris & Victor Day Foundation in March after a three-year stint as executive director of Dress for Success Quad Cities, which empowers women by giving them tools they need to achieve economic independence.
- Rebecca Skafidas is senior vice president and chief credit officer of American Bank & Trust and a dedicated mentor to other women. She believes that there are opportunities for everyone to be beacons of hope and she urges others to seize them.
- Cecelia O’Brien, who died May 12, 2022, was nominated for the award by her husband Pat O’Brien. He called her death at age 61 a “terrific loss” to him, his family and the community.” His wife’s life teaches us that, he said, “We should all be more involved in our community and care more about our neighbors.”