Chair Chat: Lesson Learned?


From the desk of Jackie Sheffer, WBC Chair

About 4 years ago a came up with what I call my life boxes, Family, Building my Business, Sharks and Running. I created these boxes to help me say no to things that were not important to me if they did not fit in one of my boxes. Creating the boxes felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders, this exercise allowed me to remove myself from activities that were causing me stress.

Over the past several years I have revisited my boxes annually to write out goals and have felt pretty strong in some of my boxes. Sharks are in my philanthropy box.  My heart belongs to both Sharks and Girls. I have been volunteering with a running group for girls and with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.  Running is in my health box. I started running again and have my personal trainer scheduled on my calendar 3 times per week. I do not cancel my time with her, the time may move from a Monday to a Tuesday, but I see her 3 times per week.  Work is always front and center, family, who are they?

I feel that my work box is about to explode and my family box is empty. The first thing that may pop into one’s mind is a work-life balance. I believe in work-life integration and feel I need to take a step back and see where I am spending my time. Over the past weekend, I made a list of all the activities I do outside of my family box, along with the amount of time spent participating in these activities. I then made a spreadsheet of my 4 boxes and listed the activities in the box they represent.

Activities that do not fit in a box will have to go, I will then prioritize the remaining activities in their respective boxes, this may also require letting go of less critical activities.

More important I will review my boxes monthly to assist in maintaining a healthy level of activity in each box.  Going forward I will work on taking the following steps when deciding whether to take on a new activity:

  • Thank you for asking, can I get back to you tomorrow?
  • Which box does this activity fit in?
  • Where does this activity fit in the list of priorities currently within that box?
  • How much time will this new activity take?
  • Send a Thank you but No response as soon as possible.

I am not sure what I am afraid of when it comes to saying no? I believe that it is an honor when someone asks me to participate. Don’t I want to give it my all? Saying no today does not mean I have to say no tomorrow when the time is right and the yes fits into one of my life boxes.


Happy Anniversary WBC!

Happy Anniversary WBC!

I’ve been thinking a lot about women’s history lately. It started while I was helping to plan the WBC’s 30th Anniversary celebration and it culminated last week when I took my kids to Washington, DC.

I had fun sifting through the Chamber’s archives and looking at the WBC photos and program materials over the past 30 years. I also enjoyed reading the “fun facts” that Leslie Foster of Siena College researched for us about women in business and other leadership roles between 1986 and today. Here are a few of my favorite stats:

  • In 1996, there were no female CEOs on the Fortune 500 List; today, 26 women head major firms.
  • In 1986, 25% of household breadwinners were women; today, that percentage is 39% of household breadwinners.
  • In 1985, women comprised 14.8% of legislatures; today that percentage is 24.2%.

In addition to thinking about this on a macro level, I started to think about this on a more individual level. I’m fortunate to work for a great company whose CEO is a woman and I happen to be the breadwinner in my family. On the political front, I was fortunate to spend a week in DC right before a historic election with a female presidential candidate. I was even more fortunate to get to sit in on a Supreme Court session in which the female Justices happened to be taking the lead. I was mesmerized watching them pose questions to the attorneys as they worked through the case.

And then I bribed my kids with ice cream and dragged them to a museum exhibit on the woman suffrage movement. In case you’re wondering what this photo is — it’s a statue of the courageous pioneers of the woman suffrage movement prominently displayed in the Capitol: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.

Speaking of courageous leadership, I hope to see you at next month’s program “Courage as the Currency Between Women,” featuring our very own WBC Advisory Board member, Corey Jamison. You can register here>

The Importance of Community

I hope that everyone is getting to enjoy some lazy days of summer. I was fortunate to get ten magical days in Italy with my family recently. There are so many things to love about Italy that I could write an entire blog post on that topic alone!  In addition to the beautiful countryside, rich history and amazing food, my husband and I were impressed with the strong sense of community that we got to observe in several different towns. We enjoyed talking to locals and learning more about their lifestyle.

Coming home to the Capital District after this incredible experience led us to reflect upon the importance of community. My husband is from Troy and many of his friends and family members still reside in the area. My story is different with several moves, including a big move from California to Schenectady eight years ago. Knowing only two sweet senior citizens at the time (my parents), I set out to find a new job and cultivate a new community.

My Dad was involved with several different Chamber initiatives and encouraged me to get involved as well. He graciously took me to Global Business Network (GBN) events and eventually I stumbled upon my first Women’s Business Council (WBC) event. I still remember the warm welcome that Brandi Miller provided and how she kindly introduced me to several other WBC members. I was impressed with the caliber of the WBC programs and the diversity of its membership.

Since that warm welcome, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the WBC program planning and communications committees and then most recently as vice-chair and chair. I have enjoyed meeting so many remarkable professional women and am grateful to have found a “soft landing place” as former WBC chair Paula Heller once said about the WBC.

I recently learned that the WBC is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It has been fun going through some of the Chamber’s archives and thinking about the impact of the WBC on this community over the past 30 years. You’ll be hearing more about the WBC’s anniversary as we kick off our new programming year in September. I hope to see you all at Women of Excellence Unplugged – one of my favorite events!

What’s energizing you this Spring?

Screen-Shot-2015-12-10-at-6.00.03-PMHappy Spring!  Even though this past winter was relatively mild, spring couldn’t come soon enough for me.  Blooming shrubs, chirping birds and extra daylight to run after work are just a few of the things that energize me this time of year.  Every spring, I get excited to take on new projects and eagerly start my “to do” list.  It doesn’t take long for my post-it notes to resemble the cover of Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed book, which is ironic because one of my “action items” is to finish the last few chapters of this great book (preferably before May 10th when the WBC will be discussing it during a brown bag lunch.

For those who missed Brigid Schulte at the WBC Bold in Business Forum, I encourage you to check out the resources on her website:  I particularly enjoyed her New America Weekly article in which she writes,

“It’s time to Get Real. Time to break these so-called ‘work-life’ issues out of the Mommy Zone and into the Mainstream where they’ve always belonged.”

It’s encouraging to see progress towards “mainstreaming” these issues in the Capital Region.  In March, the WBC partnered with the Times Union’s Women@Work to sponsor a panel discussion about “The Blind Spot” research conducted by Siena College Research Institute.  I was glad to see both men and women in attendance at the event and that Ed Mitzen, president of Fingerpaint, joined Ruth Mahoney, market president at KeyBank, on the panel.

I look forward to continuing the conversation and hope to see you at future WBC events.  For more information, subscribe to this WBC Voice blog and visit the WBC page on the Chamber’s website.

What statistics say about women?

There are some surprising statistics about women floating around the internet these days. Take the ones Sheryl Sandberg uncovered during research for her book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”  sheryl

Among the stats include:

– 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
–  Congress is 18% female.
– Women are paid $0.77 for every dollar men make.

And, here are a few I found more disturbing:

– Girls perform worse on tests when they have to check off M or F before taking it.
– Men attribute their success to innate qualities and skills. Women attribute their success to luck and help from others.
– When men fail, they say it’s because they weren’t interested. Women blame their lack of ability.

Interested in more mind blowing stats presented by Sheryl Sandberg?

rosieIt appears that women aspire to be less and are less confident. And yet I have met some of the most amazing, confident women at the WBC. Take for example the women I spoke with at the Membertini in June held at Lord & Taylor. There were women leading their own companies and who represented diverse professions including architecture, engineering, financial planning, language translation, cultural education, fashion, hospitality, accounting, law, and medicine. It’s not that I doubt the statistics are accurate, my point is to emphasize what we can do to change them. I also met people from Girl’s Inc. and the YWCA at the Membertini. These organizations are helping to inspire and build confidence in young women which is clearly important to change these statistics. I find the WBC to be full of supportive and uplifting women. I am very proud that we are an organization of women who can continue to change these statistics one woman, one girl at a time. The statistics do not define us. Our actions do.

See you at our next event “WOE Unplugged” to hear the back story of confident, aspiring women. Register here for the September 15 event.