Has the world changed for working women?

Ladies, meet Laura Rodriguez, a fellow 4word woman and reader of Work, Love, Pray. Laura is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Management, and she now works at Barclays’ Investment Banking Division, covering the Commercial Real Estate sector.

As you’ll read below, Laura notes similarities between her mother’s career and Diane’s, and she sat down with us this weekend to discuss the question: has the world changed for working women?


4word: How did you hear about 4word and Work, Love, Pray?

Laura: At Yale, I was one of the leaders of the Christian Fellowship, which had the privilege of hosting an annual conference, “Believers in Business,” for Christian MBA students and graduates across the nation. This year, Diane Paddison participated as a speaker and panelist, and I happened upon her bio on our website.

As a newly minted MBA working very much in a man’s world and struggling with my own questions of how to balance my faith, relationships and career, I was immediately intrigued by Diane’s mission. During some down time over the Christmas holiday, I picked up a copy of Work, Love, Pray and devoured it in one sitting. It was so refreshing to hear I wasn’t alone.

4word: You mentioned in your book recommendation that being a working mother is a “paradoxical path” that “can still feel lonely and misunderstood.” Can you tell us more about that?

Laura: I grew up with an ambitious working mother who I tremendously admire. She climbed a steep corporate ladder in the oil and gas industry and is now an executive at ExxonMobil.  She has traveled the world, opened new doors for herself and for us yet still kept faith and ethics as the ultimate priority.

However, the struggle was palpable in balancing the demands of a global corporate job and the desire to meet the needs of our family. It didn’t help much that we were based in Houston, where there was a significant judgment on women who didn’t stay home, at least in the well-to-do suburb I grew up in. As I have grown, I now see my mother’s bravery – in the use of spiritual gifts but particularly in her self-sacrifice to set boundaries in her career to support our family.

The problem is that our society still tends to view things in black and white. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s now-famous article in The Atlantic highlights this well, as does all the media coverage of the appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo while 6 months pregnant. As a working mother, you may be able to have it all, but you just can’t win – at least when it comes to mass societal approval.

4word: How has your own experience as a career woman been similar to that of your own mother’s and/or Diane’s?

Laura: When I look at my mother and hear Diane’s story, it’s clear that the Lord’s hand laid a path for them that they probably wouldn’t have chosen on their own. My own journey has been very winding and one where I have had to immensely trust the Lord’s plan for my life.

When things get rocky or uncertain, I have been fortunate to have a strong sense of peace about where I am at the moment. I am also very fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive husband who inspires me every day in his brilliance, generosity and drive.

4word: And how has it been different? Have you noticed any societal/cultural changes that have helped working women?

Laura: What I find ironic is that in my experience in the workplace, being a woman is actually advantageous. For one, you stand out, and two, many companies recognize the importance of attracting and retaining women in creating a more balanced and successful business. This often gives women leverage to step up and ask for things that our mothers and grandmothers may not have had.

But the moment you step out of the office, not much has changed for working women in the constant emotional battle we fight with perception and reality. The opportunities available to women have increased hundred-fold, but the entrenchment of “sides” – at work versus at home – cripples women as a whole instead of empowering us to ask for more.

I think 4word is an important channel to address these issues and more importantly, build true community amongst Christian women of all perspectives.