Lindsey Cambardella, Photo by Ryan Fleisher www.ryanfleisher.com
Caroline L. Huftalen is freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Survivors Project, a nonprofit organization and legal fund for survivors of domestic violence. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Let me start by saying that I hate that we have to even have this conversation,” says Lindsey Cambardella, CEO of Translation Station, a company based in Atlanta that provides global and cross-industry language translation services. It’s been 70-plus years since Rosie the Riveter pushed women en masse into the workforce, so why are we still awed when find out successful women also have successful home lives?
The answer: Our work culture is still very much behind the times.
Even when moms are internationally recognized—we see you Susan Wojcicki CEO of YouTube (3.3 stars); Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland co-chairs of the Women’s March; and Kathryn Finney founder of digitalundivided (Rate This Company)—the stigma still persists that motherhood and business don’t mix. In fact, a recent InHerSight poll of 2,200 women found that 53 percent of moms are uncomfortable leaving work early to pick up their kids, and it’s no secret that women are anxious or downright afraid of disclosing their pregnancies or family aspirations to future employers.
This didn’t scare Cambardella, who, while interviewing for her current role, made it clear that she wanted kids, and she wanted them soon.
“I was definitely nervous, but several things were at work,” Cambardella says. “It is my nature to be brutally open and honest—for better or worse. I never want anyone to think that I am misrepresenting something.”
That’s brave, because we know that pregnancy and motherhood discrimination are real issues. If a woman brings up kids or the want for kids in the workplace, it can be (and has been) interpreted as a flaw. She must be unfocused and unmotivated to keep moving up in her career. She’ll want to leave work early all the time. She’ll no longer be willing to put her work first.
Cambardella was lucky. This wasn’t the case for her during the interview because the founder of Translation Station, Phyllis Stallman, started the company as a widowed single mother. She knew a thing or two about balancing career and motherhood and never let either one hold her back from the other.
“I knew she appreciated that it was possible to balance a career and motherhood,” Cambardella says. “Phyllis also has an authenticity about her that puts you at ease, even when it’s a tough conversation. I knew that my success with Translation Station would be contingent upon a strong relationship with Phyllis, so I did not want her to feel surprised by such news shortly after I came on board.”
Stallman passed down a work culture at Translation Station that respected employees’ work-life balance. Employees enjoy uninterrupted time when they are away from the office—keeping personal time personal.
That clear definition between work and play is something InHerSight has heard, through polls and ratings, that women want time and again. Our data tells us that women value PTO over any other company asset, even salary. And flexible work hours are similarly top of mind when women look for jobs or ways to negotiate better office lives. We’re not alone, either: According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace 2017, 53 percent of employees of all genders say that a better personal well-being and greater work-life balance are “very important” to them.
“I’m lucky to have inherited this ethos and believe it is critical to my success as both a CEO and a new mom,” Cambardella says. “Being a mother has forced me to be more protective of my time; I had to learn to say ‘no’ to certain requests and events. This process of zeroing in on what is truly important has been a great benefit to me both personally and professionally.”
Cambardella’s honesty wasn’t the only strength that got her the job. With 43 percent of women leaving their jobs after having children, presumably for a mixture of reasons ranging from wanting to stay at home with their kids and inflexibility at their current workplace, women are finding it to be even more important to work harder to make sure they remain assets to a company.
“I am keenly aware that valuable employees are hard to find and keep,” Cambardella says. “As a result, my best advice is to make yourself as valuable as possible as an employee, which will enable you to demand some flexibility if the company wants you to stick around. Also (here comes the cliché), there is no such thing as perfect timing, so if starting a family is a goal for you, just go for it!”
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