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What NYC Tech Women Think of Sheryl + Marissa

Monday, March 04, 2013 - 11:00 PM

So guess who’s leading the debate about women, equality, and work-life balance? Turns out it’s two high-powered women in tech. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently banned working from home and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has a book coming out on March 11 that urges women to push harder and "lean in" to their careers.

This week on New Tech City, WNYC reporter Anna Sale talks to some of New York’s women in tech and asks them what they think about these messages coming from the top.

One of the women Anna talks to is Rachael Ellison of REworking Parents/The Reworking Group. She’s also the subject of the second in my series of mommy entrepreneur profiles. But I need to rename this series because of the feedback I got from said "mommies." The phrase mommy entrepreneur didn’t sit well with them. 

My goal was to conjure up images of innovative female businesswomen carving out new ways of integrating work and life all while starting cutting-edge consultancies and publications AND managing their children.

But the phrase made them think of homemade baby blankets being sold on Etsy. Not that there is anything wrong with that — it’s just that these women don’t want "mommy" to define them. No matter how impressive their balancing acts are to me, they want their work to precede them. I’m starting to get that.

The other day I told a friend of a friend about some of my upcoming projects and he said, "Manoush, I’ve been underestimating you. I thought you were just a mommy looking to earn a little extra money."

Um, no. 

There are bigger plans afoot and I now realize that speaking openly about the madness that is school pickup, potty training, promoting a book, and hosting a show on New York's tech scene will limit me in some circles.

That realization was one reason I wanted to hold an upcoming event called How Technology is Changing the Way Women Work (please join us if you can). Rachael will will be in the audience. She and I found each other on Twitter last summer. But it turns out she lives a few doors down from me. She works with parents and organizations to figure out how to reach the Holy Grail: a career that you actually like, pays well, and works with your family’s schedule.

RACHAEL ELLISON, FOUNDER OF REWORKING PARENTS

Q: Tell us about you and why/when you decided to leave a “real” job and start out on your own.

A: I’m Rachael. Mom to a three-year-old and a two-month-old. My husband has a publishing company. I am an organizational development consultant and executive coach by training. I decided to go out on my own for a couple of reasons. I wanted to make money doing something that made me happy so my daughter could see that work and life weren’t mutually exclusive. I saw a lot of parents around me who were miserable and didn’t have to be. My friends had their kids and went slogging back to work they hated day after day. I wanted them to see the possibilities ahead. The world of work has changed, how and where we work is different than we think. We can find work that doesn’t leave us feeling financially, intellectually or emotionally trapped. I help people — parents in particular — change careers and brand themselves for the new job market, develop professionally as leaders in their fields, and design their work lives for optimum flexibility. I also consult with organizations to advise on approaches to flexible work. 

Q: What’s been the best/worst thing about being a lone operator?

A: I have a love-hate thing with “solopreneurship." I love the hustle. I meet lots of people, collaborate, and learn about new fields and disciplines all the time. Sometimes that gets tiring but most of the time it’s pretty exciting.

Q: What’s your goal?

A: My business is about career growth and financial independence for both me and my clients. I work with every client to check in with "5 Ps" over the course of work-life planning and career design: Personal, Professional, Partnership, Parenting and PAY. Financial sustainability is key. You should love your work enough to do it for free, but don’t. 

You or the women in your life probably have a very particular and personal opinion on this subject  I know I do — and we are going to get deeper into how technology is changing the way women work at our event at The Greene Space on March 19. I hope you can join us that morning, in person or online. 

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