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EcoHour with Thu Pham – Can we have it all?

Below is a post by EcoWoman Dawn Bickett.  Dawn is a former science teacher passionate about combating environmental and social injustice through non-profit work. New to Washington, D.C., she is proud to learn from, and contribute to, the active DC Ecowomen community.

Before EcoHour began on Tuesday, November 13, speaker Thu Pham was already engaged in discussion with attendees about the struggle many working women face in cultivating a stable work-life balance. “We need to stop being so hard on ourselves,” she told the table over dinner. Nodding to Ann Marie Slaughter’s much-discussed essay in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Pham noted that “‘Having it all’ means something different for every woman.”

This week, Thu Pham offered her thoughts on the challenges of creating a satisfying professional life and still finding time for personal fulfillment. As the executive director of Rachel’s Network—an organization that builds leadership and connections between conservation-minded, philanthropic women—and as the mother of three young children, Pham is well-versed in the hurdles that women professionals face.  Prior to her work with Rachel’s Network, Pham was a finance director and consultant on congressional campaigns, and an associate director of development for the League of Conservation Voters. At Rachel’s Network, she is dedicated to creating the collaborative and affirming work environment she envisioned throughout her career.

During her talk, Pham provided three key pieces of advice drawn from her own experience. First, don’t let others impose their expectations of your career path on you. Pham discovered this tenet early in her professional life when she felt pushed toward a career in a field that didn’t suit her. Over time, she learned to reject others’ expectations and find a direction that truly suited her interests.  Second, actively seek out a work environment that is positive and fulfilling. For Pham, this meant finding mentors that inspired her and believed in her abilities, and co-workers she enjoys working with. Third, create a personal network of peers to support you.

During the question and answer after her talk, Thu Pham circled back to one of her most resonant messages: Don’t be so hard on yourself. She suggested that we give ourselves permission to say ‘I’ve had enough today,’ and define our own work-life balance. Pham also encouraged her audience to support and lift up the women around them, because all of us benefit from a positive workplace environment.

Attendees of the November EcoHour left wondering not whether “having it all” was possible, but rather what “having it all” means in our own lives—and how we can help other women achieve a balance that works for them.

For more from Thu Pham, see her response to “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” at Forbes.


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