A Fine Balance
Is it possible to have a career and a life?
That question was on the minds of Mariette Fourmeaux and Shirin Dewani Belur, both MBA 08, when they arrived at the Haas School. Fourmeaux was single and in no hurry for a family; Belur had been married five years and was looking forward to children.
"Here we were in school taking all sorts of classes on how to run a business successfully, and I believe that success is only possible when I, as an individual, am happy with my life," says Fourmeaux. "There wasn't anything about this being offered, yet we found that students — men and women — were very much talking about it."
Their casual conversation inspired Fourmeaux and Belur to create a 12-week speaker series last spring called "Work & Family: How to manage your non-work life to make work work."
"My biggest question was, am I going to be able to be a working mother?" says Belur, who gained the confidence to accept a corporate post while pregnant. "My biggest takeaway was that there is hope and it can be done. We heard from men and women who are doing it successfully."
The two made an effort to broaden the class's appeal — 4 of the 14 students were men. They sought out high-powered speakers from such fields as investment banking and the startup world to discuss the practical — setting up a home office, negotiating ground rules with a partner — and the personal. One speaker shared that she had written her decision not to have children into her prenup. A student confessed she had frozen her eggs because her career goals meant postponing childbearing.
Michael Thomas, MBA 08, was spurred to change his post-graduation plans.
"People came out and said 'I created this flexibility in my life,'" says Thomas, who passed up a stint at Deloitte to launch his own diversity consulting firm. "I came away thinking I have a lot more control over my future, and I don't need a big company to create that for me."
Students Megan Ryskamp and Anushka Shevde, both MBA 09, will continue the conversation next year, with a sequel titled "Creative Life Decisions."