Second in a series
Anna Crowley, Avaya’s chief human resources officer, has a deep understanding of the challenges involved in balancing a career and family. “You have to learn to put yourself first on your list, or at least closer to the top,” she said. “Stop feeling guilty about everything, and don’t apologize all the time.”
A single mother of two who relishes her career in human resources, Crowley provided her insights and advice to attendees at the second Women in Technology (WIT) discussion session, “Self-Care, Family Care, Career: A Balancing Act,” at Avaya ENGAGE 2023. IAUG board member Adriane Davis introduced Crowley at the Tuesday luncheon event.
“I am the least structured person you know, as I’m always doing things on the fly,” Crowley said. “So, I know how important it is for us to have supportive family, friends, and allies to help us navigate our lives.”
In her talk, Crowley covered six themes to help women navigate their personal and professional lives.
A professional woman should do what’s right for herself, rather than following work-life expectations that come from the outside world. “When you are a child or retired, society doesn’t care what you do,” she said. “But, when you’re in between those two ages, many women feel pressure to conform with others. Social media really plays into those expectations, since we’re always looking at what others are doing.”
Crowley said her parents expected her to be a stay-at-home mother, a nurse, or a teacher. Instead, she built a rewarding professional career, and travels frequently across the Atlantic, while raising two children, who are now teenagers. “I didn’t follow the mold,” she said. “I have built a network of friends and allies around me, and me and the kids form a tight-knit threesome.”
Growing up in Ireland, Crowley said she felt guilty about everything – especially putting herself first. “These days, we encourage people to be true to themselves, and fortunately, my daughter is not bothered by peer pressure,” she said.
For professionals, though, the demands from work never seem to end – waking up to read emails, eating breakfast by the computer, and talking to co-workers at any time of the day or night. But you just have to set limits without feeling guilty, Crowley said. “But letting go of the guilt can be the hardest part of the balancing act.”
Do you believe you know what is expected of you at home and on the job? Take the time to challenge that set of beliefs. “Don’t assume that you know what others are thinking,” said Crowley. “Also, we tend to judge other people by their actions, but judge ourselves by our intentions. That can lead to some harsh self-criticism. Instead, tell yourself, ‘I’m doing the best I can do.’”
As a new mother, your top priority is to look after the baby, Crowley said. In relationships, you might put the needs of your husband, partner or friends ahead of your own. That pattern can naturally carry over to the workplace, where women leaders look after their colleagues and teams.
“At some point, you have to put yourself first, or at least closer to the top of your priority list,” Crowley said. “Take a break from your responsibilities and spend time doing something you personally enjoy. Otherwise, you’ll just be stressed and angry and take those feelings out on other people.”
Think about your own personal value system, as that will help you set priorities in your life. “For me, my children come first, but I’m not someone who wants to stay home baking pies,” Crowley said. “For me, it’s also about having a great job that gives me purpose and meaning. At home and at work, I value helping people grow and develop their lives.”
6. No apologies needed
Whether at home or on the job, women should do their best and be true to themselves, Crowley said. “We tend to be our own worst critics, but we need to stop apologizing for everything. So go ahead and manage your own life. Don’t let others do that for you.”
WIT Post-ENGAGE Meet Up
Date: Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Time: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. CT