Monday, November 21, 2011

Developing a Career Path Despite Uncertainty - Casey Hurley

Casey Hurley, faculty member of Law and Communications in the BYU-Idaho Business School, was on the "Develop (and Determine) a Career Path Despite Uncertainty" Panel of the Women in Business Conference. Casey shared her Career/Life story on our blog in October. Part of the impetus for asking Casey to be on this panel was a fantastic article she wrote called "What if 'Plan A' Doesn't Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course". For this post, we asked Casey to summarize her remarks on the panel as an introduction to her article.

I started thinking about the uncertainties of planning a career path particular to LDS women a few years ago when I noticed there were seldom many women in my business classes. Conversations with colleagues, students, and other women led me to conclude that many young LDS sisters continue to assume that traditional female careers are the most appropriate or "mom-friendly," and they make educational and career decisions based on that assumption, which is often false. I was shocked to hear about some of our married BYU-Idaho students dropping out of school because they "didn't need a degree anymore."

We all know women whose educational choices have either opened a range of possibilities for them or have limited their options. I think of a friend with a degree in information technology who married in her late 20s after working hard at her career during her single years. When she married, she had the option to transfer, then telecommute when her kids were born. Her education gave her flexibility at different stages of life. Now she is at home with her kids. On the other hand, I know a woman with a large family who did not have similar educational opportunities who went to work as a restaurant hostess when work got scarce for her husband.

I stared to lie awake at night worrying about our BYU-Idaho students faced with the difficulty of making important decisions that would either expand or limit their opportunities. Clearly some of the difficulty for them lies in addressing the uncertainty about when and how their training will be put to use in their future roles as wives and mothers. The difficulty and significance of the problem weighed on me until I decided to write something about the need to provide our students the type of guidance I wish I'd had as a student. When this article was published in our faculty journal, Perspective, I hoped it would ignite discussion and encourage better minds than mine to invent new ways to help our students. The article has had some circulation beyond Rexburg--in fact it connected me to some of the fabulous women behind the BYU Women in Business Conference. This conference is exactly the sort of exposure students need to examples of faithful LDS women applying their education in a variety of ways. There remains work to be done on this front--even at our Church schools we just don't do a good enough job of appropriately prioritizing, even sanctifying, motherhood while helping our female students prepare for a breadth of life possibilities.

"What If 'Plan A' Doesnt Work? Helping Female Students Navigate an Uncertain Life Course," Perspective, Volume 7 Number 2, Autumn 2007

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doing Our Part to Champion Family-Friendly Workplaces

Elise Jones was one of the participants in the conference and has a particular interest in helping create family-friendly workplacesShe is a work/life consultant and founder and president of E Jones Consulting.  Most recently Elise led the diversity effort for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business and served as a workplace flexibility advisor to several Microsoft executives. During her seven years at the company Elise founded a flexwork-focused employee affinity group and was instrumental in establishing flexwork initiatives in several business units companywide. Elise is the 2005 recipient of Microsoft's Business Empowered by Diversity Award.

In April 2011 General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the decision facing many mothers of whether to work outside the home. Having confronted that choice under various conditions in my own life, I appreciated his urging to stand confident in decisions made under the influence of counsel, study, and prayer, whether they result in taking time away from paid work or whether they lead us into the workplace full or part time.

One comment Elder Cook made struck me with particular force: “I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents.”

All members of the Church have an opportunity to stand up for a workplace that honors the role of parents and caregivers. Whether that means joining with others to lobby for more flexible work options or simply stating our needs when tensions between work and family mount, each of us can make a difference in building a family-friendly workplace.

As part of my efforts to help employers build family-supportive environments, I’m conducting a study looking at factors that influence whether mothers and prospective mothers take advantage of work/life supports provided by their employers, and with what effects. The results will contribute to a text aimed at organizations wanting to support mothers as part of a multicultural workforce.

If you’ve been in the workplace while pregnant, caring for a child under age 18, or while undergoing fertility treatments or seeking adoption, I hope you’ll take my online survey and share your insights on how employers can positively influence mothers’ experiences in the workplace. If this profile doesn’t fit you, please consider passing the invitation on to someone who might appreciate the chance to participate. The survey takes 15-20 minutes to complete, and all qualifying participants will be entered to win a $25 gift card.

Having worked with groups to build and implement work/life supports, I have seen firsthand the impact workplace flexibility, part-time work, and other offerings can have on workgroups and on individual employees and their families. Such progress requires vision, dedication, and hard work from not only company leaders, but also each individual within the organization. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider what your part might be in this important effort.

What are you or the people around you doing to create or support a family-friendly environment at work? How are those efforts received?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Using Skills for Service -- Kris Anne Gustavson's Remarks

Kris Anne Gustavson was on the "Using Skills for Service: Serving in the Church and Community" panel of the Women in Business Conference. Kris Anne and her husband, Paul, have a company called Organizational Planning & Design, founded in 1985. From 2007-2009, they used their professional skills as service missionaries for the Church. Below, Kris Anne summarizes some of her experiences and thoughts she shared on the panel. 

I went to BYU and majored in Recreation Education. While some were in their accounting classes, I was learning how to canoe. I’ve used my degree every day of my life since then. My husband and I got married after we both graduated. He went on to grad school, majoring in Organization Design, while I supported us financially. I regret that I didn’t enroll in the program and get my masters as well.

In 1985, we started our own company, Organization Planning and Design, Inc. I work part-time, using my recreation degree to create team building sessions and initiatives with some of our clients.

I also got certified in the Herrmann Brain Dominance Theory so I could do workshops helping organizations understand learning preferences and how to use that in communication, teaching, learning and problem solving effectively.

My husband and I were approached by the church Human Resource Department about using our skills to benefit the church. We suggested that we do it as a church service mission. We started in May 2007 and committed for 2 years. My husband committed half of his working time to give to the church. I did almost that much but not quite. He would go to Utah often, and I was able to do most of my work wherever I was at the time. He worked on redesigning some of the core services that the Temporal Affairs provides for the church, such as accounting, materials management, humanitarian, etc. I was involved in interviewing individuals who were applying for paying jobs at the church. It was a standardized telephone interview, so I could do it from anywhere. I also conducted Brain Dominance Workshops for organizations within Temporal Affairs. We traveled to Hawaii, England, Germany and Russia in our mission, but most of it was done in Utah. Our mission lasted for 2 years.

This is an example of my history in serving. I haven’t often gone out searching for service, but instead service opportunities have come to me.

One year at my children’s school, I went to the Room Mother’s meeting, thinking I would sign up for a small job for the year and discovered that I was the only mother that showed up, so I ended up heading all the Room Mothers.

Service seems to be in the DNA of women and we seem to be prone to serve. We relate more to the words, “compassionate service” than men do. When we serve we are doing that which comes natural for a lot of women. Even when service occurs that would not be described as “compassionate service” most people feel good when they serve. That is why I serve. It makes me feel good.

Once I was called to be the Stake Camp Director. I thought, now here is a chance to use my education to serve in the church. What I discovered is that although my recreation education certainly helped me in that calling, the most significant skill that was needed in that calling was the ability to deal with the adults in the stake. So, you may not think that you have the skills necessary for the service required, and may discover that a completely different set of skills are actually needed.

When asked what my advice would be to those who have young children in the home without much spare time, how they can serve I will tell you this. There is no greater service than what you can give to your family members. If that is all you have time to do, then you are providing the best service you can. Unfortunately, some individuals would say that caring and raising children is not as noble as working for pay. But if a person owned a daycare center or a laundromat or a chauffeur service for pay, they would be considered a professional. Just because we don’t get paid to do such things for our family, we might think that it is not important work. I would say to you, that it is a mistake to think that. It is the most important service you can ever do.

There are service opportunities right at your computer. The church has a site called Helping in the Vineyard. Quoting the website:
Helping in the Vineyard provides service opportunities that can be completed in minutes. Participants from around the world spend as much or as little time as they like completing the activities online. As a result of the thousands of acts of service, the Church is able to publish and share more resources worldwide. (
There is also the name extraction program [Family Search Indexing] that one can do on the computer in little bits of time.

And of course, if we are active members of the church, then we have a church calling that would be considered service. Whether it be a primary teacher, a position in Young Women or Relief Society or in the nursery, we are serving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Using Skills for Service - Neylan McBaine's Remarks

Neylan McBaine was on the "Using Skills for Service: Serving in the Church and Community" panel of the Women in Business Conference. Neylan founded the Mormon Women Project, which led to a position with the church working on the I'm A Mormon campaign. This is her summary of her remarks on the panel.


Although Becky Douglas came to our "Using Your Management Skills for Service" panel concerned that she hadn't brought management skills to her service but learned them on the job, I came with a different concern: My efforts at service had led directly to a paid job. As the founder of the Mormon Women Project (MWP), a digital library of interviews with LDS women from around the world at, I had been invited by the Church's advertising agency of choice, Bonneville Communications, to work on "I'm A Mormon" and other missionary-driven initiatives. Did the fact that I was now making money through my Church work discredit or devalue the service I had originally set out to offer through the MWP? Had I sold out for "filthy lucre"?

I answer a resounding no for several reasons. First, the MWP is still going strong and I am dedicated to continuing that effort in the face of professional constraints on my time. The goodness that results from those volunteer efforts has not diminished. In fact, it has only been strengthened by the support I receive from my professional workplace. Second, I believe it is a damaging fallacy that women in the Church cannot "serve" our communities through paid work. Although much of our people's heroic humanitarian efforts and local fellowshipping is done quietly and without reward, Mormon men with paid jobs are regularly recognized for the good examples they are in their work communities, the productivity or acclaim of their work, and the (mostly) positive attention they bring to us as a people. (Steve Young, Bill Marriott, or Brandon Flowers, anyone?) I am not comfortable with the assertion that men can be both paid workers and contributors to the betterment of our communities, while women have to choose between either work or service. My work at Bonneville, while paid, empowers me as a member missionary, offers me a productive outlet that makes use of my unique professional skills and allows me to be an ambassador for the church in a professional industry.

As I discussed in our panel, I had an ideal example growing up of a woman who's work seamlessly permeated the boundaries between profession and service. My mother sang for 18 years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as a professional opera singer. In this job, she served to pave the way for many future LDS opera singers who have sung from the Met stage since then, and, more importantly, she helped establish a culture of acceptance and recognition for LDS singers within her industry. In addition, she offered her skills liberally to the Church community, traveling the country as I was growing up and performing firesides, appearing in official Church videos, singing for prophets and apostles whenever asked. Although retired from professional singing for many years, my mother continues to stay busy performing in sacrament meetings, funerals, conferences, etc.

We are a volunteer church and that is one of our greatest strengths as an earthly organization. However, that doesn't have to mean that all goodness flows from efforts that are purely sacrificial. I know that the Lord prepared me for years and years before I got the call from Bonneville, building my skills, molding my heart, strengthening my family so that when the time came for me to work for the Church, I was ready.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Using Skills for Service - Becky Douglas' Remarks

Becky Douglas was on the "Using Your Skills for Service: Serving in the Church and Community" Panel of the Women in Business Conference. She is a co-founder of Rising Star Outreach, a non-profit working with leprosy colonies in India. These are her reconstructed notes of her remarks on the panel.


Unlike the others on the panel, I didn't bring any management skills to my area of service; instead I had the reverse formula: I gained Management Skills as a result of my service.

As a mother of ten children, I didn't have time to pursue and develop business management skills. When I started Rising Star Outreach, it was by inviting three friends (all homemakers) to join me around my kitchen table. I also pulled in my husband's secretary--mostly, because she didn't dare say no!

I quickly found out that I needed quite an array of Management Skills in order to run an international charity. Some of those included

  • Raising millions of dollars to support the cause. That involves speaking at engagements across the United States, and sometimes in foreign countries.
  • Obtaining government and legal licensing both in America and in India for the charity and to run schools.
  • Running an overseas operation with 55 native employees in India.
  • Putting together and leading two Boards of Directors; one in India, one in America.
  • Overseeing accounting and auditing teams in both America and in India. (When I started Rising Star, I didn't even know what a spreadsheet was!)
  • Creating and sustaining four thousand micro-businesses through micro-finance.
  • Overseeing teams of doctors & nurses running mobile medical units to provide needed medical care to over 50 leprosy colonies in three very diverse States in India. Providing for hospitalizations and surgeries.
  • Running elementary and secondary boarding schools, providing teacher training, and curriculum for schools in India. Also providing training for housemothers.
  • Producing newsletters and keeping Sponsors communicating with children across the world.
  • Running a volunteer program involving 250 volunteers a year; including travel arrangements and programs on the ground. Providing opportunities for interns. Providing study abroad opportunities for colleges.
  • Setting up social networking campaigns including FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs. Also create and maintain an international data bank.
  • Running publicity campaigns including production and marketing of documentaries; creating a website, creating pamphlets, giving interviews for newspapers, television, and radio around the world.
  • Overseeing personnel matters in organizations across two continents.
  • Running arts programs, including a dance program involving dancers from Broadway and the top dance conservatories in America, as well as the creation of choruses, and supporting art schools for the leprosy-affected.
I had none of these skills when I helped to found Rising Star. I just felt that something needed to be done to help those affected by leprosy in India, so I took action.

The good news is that I've been able to slowly develop the needed skills. The skills that were beyond me, I was fortunate in that, in every instance, God provided someone who had the skills we needed. So I challenged the conference attendees not to hesitate to get involved in meeting needs out of fear that they didn't have the necessary management skills. At Rising Star Outreach, we frequently marvel that we seem to live the parable of the Fishes and the Loaves every day. We provide the two fishes and the five loaves of bread, then we marvel at how God makes it feed 5,000! God owns the universe, and my experience is that He brings it to those who lift their hands to help the disadvantaged and the the downtrodden. He knows how to do His work! We need to try to move ahead with faith in His promises.

Discussion ensued about the demands of home and family. A question was asked about a "time and a season for all things". I replied that I had spent 25 years raising my ten children before starting Rising Star Outreach. During that time there were many opportunities for service that helped prepare me for the work I'm doing today.

It seems that, as women, we almost all face times when we have to make decisions in balancing our homemaking duties and our outside interests. Like everyone else, I've also had these struggles. As a trained professional violinist, I earlier had to decide how best to pursue my career without compromising care of my children. At one point, with a number of children, it became an impossibility for me to continue performing at a professional level without seriously impacting their growth and my commitment to them. Each of us has to make these decisions based upon our own inspiration and personal revelation. What we don't have to do--thank goodness--is judge anyone else's decision!

I commented that I have to answer to a lot of people. I have to answer to my Boards of Directors, to my major donors, to government agencies, to sponsors, and to the parents of the children in our schools. However, the most serious accounting I will ever have to do will be to my Eternal Heavenly Father, for how I treated and trained His own children that He entrusted to me. I encouraged participants to follow the guidelines of the Proclamation on the Family. What a blessing it is to have prophets to guide and help us!

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Get the Mentoring Equation Right" - Whitney Johnson's Mentoring Presentation

If you didn't get the chance to hear Whitney Johnson's presentation on mentoring (or if you did and want to revisit what she talked about), you can find an outline of her talk on Harvard Business Review's blog: "Get the Mentoring Equation Right" (as well as a preface to her presentation on her blog, Dare to Dream.) 

In the HBR article, Whitney shares an equation that she and a colleague, Bob Moesta, created to analyze and assess what makes a successful mentor/mentee relationship. 

Whitney writes:
I used to be able to say "yes" to pretty much anyone who reached out to me for mentoring. As requests increase, however, and wonderfully so, I fear that I am going to overlook those with promise who don't quite know how to package themselves. Worse yet is the thought that I may inadvertently rebuff someone simply because I haven't managed my time well, neglecting to give them the courtesy of a proper no.
 My quandary has led to a considered, lengthy discussion with Bob Moesta, a demand-side innovation expert, about how to decide whom to mentor.
Bob sees mentoring as the balance of two worlds that overlap for a period of time and a certain amount of effort.
See the equation that Bob and Whitney created, and read more about this approach to mentoring here.

What are your thoughts about the mentoring equation? What have you found helps make a successful mentor/mentee relationship? What have good mentors done to help you? What, as a mentee, do you look for in a mentor? 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Quotes to Ponder and Discuss

We talked a lot at the conference about how important it is for us each to seek for and receive personal revelation as we navigate the complexity of our world and our lives. Following are some quotes from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are relevant to much of what we discussed, compiled by one of our conference attendees, Elise Jones.

What quotes (religious or secular) have helped guide you as you seek to make decisions in your life?


The Family: A Proclamation to the World: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." (General Conference, 1995)

Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President: "A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things that her heart yearns to do. . . . With personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently. The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life (General Conference, April 2010).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Former Prophet and President of the Church: "The Lord has placed upon you, as members of this Church, the obligation to study and to learn of things spiritual, yes, but of things temporal also. Acquire all of the education that you can, even if it means great sacrifice while you are young. You will bless the lives of your children. You will bless the Church" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 172).

President Gordon B. Hinckley, Former Prophet and President of the Church: "Relief Society stands for education. It is the obligation of every woman of this Church to get all the education she can. It will enlarge her life and increase her opportunities. It will provide her with marketable skills in case she needs them (General Conference, October 2006)."

Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be ‘full-time moms,’ at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else. . . .
It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes. This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners. I am grateful that today many fathers are more involved in the lives of their children. But I believe that the instincts and the intense nurturing involvement of mothers with their children will always be a major key to their well-being" (General Conference, April 2008).

Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "Women are confronted with many options and need to prayerfully consider the choices they make and how those choices affect the family. . . . These are very emotional, personal decisions, but there are two principles that we should always keep in mind. First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven’s plan. Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. . . . Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions. . . .
I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both women and men in their responsibilities as parents" (General Conference, April 2011).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "Homemaking is not just baking bread or cleaning a house. Homemaking is to make the environment necessary to nurture our children toward eternal life, which is our responsibility as parents. And that homemaking is as much for fathers as it is for mothers" (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, January 2008).

Sister Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President: "One of the questions that I get frequently is, 'Is it okay if I work outside of my home or I don’t work outside of my home?'. . . That question isn’t always appropriate in all of the world’s countries. There are many, many places where if our women don’t work, they don’t eat. So of course they have to work. The question of whether or not to work is the wrong question. The question is, 'Am I aligned with the Lord’s vision of me and what He needs me to become, and the roles and responsibilities He gave me in heaven that are not negotiable? Am I aligned with that, or am I trying to escape my duties?'” (BYU Women’s Conference, 2011).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Purpose of this Blog

This purpose of this blog is for people to be able to talk about topics relevant to Latter-day Saint women in business. The blog is designed primarily for women (those currently working, students studying or interested in business, and women on haitus from their careers), but we welcome participation from men as well.

We invite you to consider submitting to the blog. Following are examples of the types of content we hope to have here:

- Thoughts about the 2011 BYU Women in Business Conference (What stood out to you? What are you going to do differently because of the conference? What do you hope to see in future events like this?)

- Personal life/career stories (you can submit your own, or write about someone who inspires you)

- Links to (and discussions about) articles on topics or questions relevant to LDS women in business

- Personal stories about how gospel principles have helped you navigate challenging situations, prioritize and make decisions, prepare for the future, and so forth

- Ideas for establishing and managing women's networking groups and/or success stories from your local women's group (e.g., Management Society groups)

- Service and action-oriented opportunities and ideas that might be of interest to LDS women in business (no commercial promotions, please)

We hope this can be a helpful resource to continue and expand the dialogue initiated at the Women in Business Conference, and to facilitate networking, all in the context of the particular needs, interests, and beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Note: This blog is not officially associated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we strive to keep our content consistent with the Church's teachings.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Conference: It Actually Happened!

Given all that it took to make it a reality (you can read about that story here, here, and here - in that order, but just the last link if you are pressed for time), it seems a bit surreal that it really did take place. We maxed out our capacity both Friday night and Saturday. The energy in every room was fantastic. The speakers were amazing. The food was even really good (I did not see that coming). But that's just my take; we'd love to hear what you thought about it (overall and specific portions). If you've blogged about it, please link to your blog post in the comments. If you haven't written about it elsewhere, please share your thoughts in the comments. We will, of course, get your opinions via the exit survey, but if you have thoughts that might be useful for those thinking about joining us next time, please share them publicly.

We will be including some sessions reviews/overviews here in the coming weeks, along with some follow-up thoughts by a few panelists. Also, we hope to continue profiling women in the coming weeks and months; if you'd like to participate with a profile, let us know (leave a comment or send an email). For those who joined us over the weekend, thank you! We loved meeting you and learning from you. We hope you continue to build on the community that we created in Provo.