“Lean In” has become a slogan of sorts for working woman across the country. When Sheryl Sandberg wrote and published, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” which chronicles her personal journey and navigation of work and life — she served as the chief operating officer of Facebook at the time of its publication — she likely had no idea the impact it would have on today’s women.
Or maybe she did.
Recent studies show that young women think careers will give their lives as much or more meaning than marriage and family. But many others want both. And the message of “Lean In” is you can have it all — but that there will be challenges to overcome.
At Beth El Congregation on Nov. 6, four community women professionals and leaders (all of them moms) will tackle the challenge of being mommy and an M.D. or Esq. or just plain boss at the same time. An 8 p.m. talk, part of the Beth El’s Rabbi Mark G. Loeb Center for Lifelong Learning division, will present Lynn Abeshouse, managing principal of Abeshouse Partners, a commercial real estate brokerage firm; Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander, of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland; Dr. Diane J. Orlinsky, a Towson dermatologist; and Jodi Brodie, owner of Treasure House Accessories.
“Many women in our community were reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book and really want to figure it out,” said Rabbi Dana Saroken, who is spearheading the project. “For some reason we never had a communal conversation about this.”
But these successful women have, for the most part, thought about it for themselves.
Dr. Orlinsky, who was recently named a Top Doc by Baltimore Magazine, for example, said she was always drawn to medicine. When she first started at Columbia University, she realized that pre-med was extremely difficult and thought that maybe she should instead become a lawyer. But after a friend was hit by a car and confined to a hospital for one year — she visited him every day — she knew she needed to be an M.D. She made the decision to do all of her pre-med requirements immediately, to take the Medical College Admissions Test and apply. One year later, she was studying at Johns Hopkins.
Being a woman was never an issue, said Dr. Orlinsky.
“I never thought, ‘I am a woman, so I cannot do this,’” she said.
But she certainly had much to navigate. Married just after medical school, Dr. Orlinsky was the only resident in the internal medicine rotation at Hopkins to become pregnant.
“People did not get pregnant when you were a resident there. You made a commitment, and it was this unspoken agreement. So I did not make a lot of friends,” she said. “But my husband and I knew we wanted four kids, and I wasn’t going to wait.”
Dr. Orlinsky had one child during that residency, another during her dermatology residency (also at Hopkins) and two more when she started working. She recalls one doctor telling her, “You look so cute in your scrubs, like a real surgeon.” She didn’t work for him very long. Instead, she joined with mentor Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien and never looked back.
“I have paved my way,” said Dr. Orlinsky, “and I have not let anyone stop me.”
The big elephant in the room: “‘How do you do it all?’ people ask. And that is what the book says. You can do it all, but you cannot do it all yourself. Don’t finish everything. You have to compromise. You have to have a good spouse, a good support system. … Be realistic.”
Judge Hollander expressed similar sentiments. Now with three grown and married children, two grandchildren and a third grandchild on the way, Judge Hollander said, “It was a constant juggling act.” She recalled that when she graduated from law school in 1974, only 10 percent of her class were women.
“I have seen a sea change in the legal profession,” she said, noting there has been a growing influx of women.
Being a lawyer and a mother of young children was no easy feat. She recalled that some days she would come home thinking she was no good at either job; it was so hard to divide into a million pieces and meet everyone’s needs. She lugged frozen home-cooked meals back from New York to feed the children, meals her mom would prepare for her family.
But she never stopped. She said she was afraid to get on the mommy track because, “I was afraid I wouldn’t get back on the professional track. So I kept plugging away.”
Judge Hollander’s advice: “Keep your eye on the prize. … Anything worth doing is worth doing well — that applies to home and professional life.”
Her wish is that there were better and more affordable child-care options. She said just finding quality, affordable child care remains one of the biggest challenges for women seeking to work outside the home.
Abeshouse said she never had a negative experience being a woman, despite her being in a predominantly male industry.
“They have always encouraged me,” she said.
And she said one of the best things she did along the way was seek out mentors — men and women — and take advantage of the skills she thinks she possesses, in part because of her gender.
Abeshouse said she thinks most women are good at multitasking, prioritizing, using their intuition and leveraging their relationships.
“I have tried to the very best of my ability to utilize [those skills] to my advantage,” she said.
Noted Judge Hollander: “I don’t really think there is a glass ceiling. You just have to keep dreaming things are possible.”
For more information about the panel discussion, visit bethelbalto.com.
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — email@example.com