(From Janet Shamlian, TODAY Correspondent)
I'd never been to New York's famed 21 Club before today's story on women and the glass ceiling, but what an appropriate spot to talk about career building and networking. Once a speakeasy, it's now a spot where relationships are forged and deals are done. I sat down with three women there for morning coffee (video). All have Ivy League degrees and career paths that wouldn't intersect in a million years! Cynthia Russell has a Harvard MBA and a full-time job taking care of three active children. Now that they're a little older, she'd love to get back in the game but isn't sure how. Lisa Quiroz is a corporate executive who never married or had children. She wonders about that choice. Lori Okun is somewhere in the middle. She works part time, is raising two children and questions herself constantly on how well she's managing it all.
This story was perfect for me, as I seem to have been on all sides of it. I worked for years before I had children, then I quit completely as I was in the midst of numerous pregnancies and now I am back full time and raising five young children. As any parent in similar circumstances will attest, it's a constant juggle and at least from this correspondents' perspective, it always feels like the I'm dropping more balls than I'm keeping in the air. Yesterday, for example, I tried to plan my daughter's birthday party for tomorrow from 900 miles away while I wrote a Today Show script. It was too late to order the cake she wanted and several friends on her guest list had already made other plans.
While Cynthia, Lisa and Lori are on different paths, they agreed on this: women don't network like the guys do -- and they should. Whether it's lunch in the building's cafeteria or a couple of cold ones at the end of the day -- men forge stronger workplace relationships than women, something that benefits them when it comes to moving up. People do business with people they know and like.
As for the juggle and the decision on whether to step off the fast track, it's one of those 'your mileage may vary' types of situations. What's true for most women is this: it's often tough to get back on, and if you do, the new ride comes with a healthy slice of mommy guilt. An inescapable feeling, I've come to accept, it's in our genetic makeup. Back to plans for a party...