That really great idea you had? On hold. That big in-person launch you planned? Cancelled. The project you were designing? Unfunded. There is a daily struggle of getting through each day at home especially if you have children to home school, the double workload of moving everything virtual, the never ending fear your job is next to go, or the dreaded “dry cough” will soon arrive in your home. (Do you think that box of crackers I ate had the coronavirus on it? Should I have sanitized it?)
My sister wonders how she can teach virtually special education with non-verbal children, with a baby strapped on her back, a toddler wrapped around her leg all while attempting to home school her second grader who is struggling with reading. “This shouldn’t be so hard for me,” she explains to me, “I have years of experience teaching difficult children, and a Master’s degree in this, but getting my own child to listen to me? Forget about it.”
Two days ago I had the difficult conversation with a good friend whose successful business was growing only a few short months ago now has to make a decision she wasn’t prepared for. She was seeking my advice, does she give it all up and try to return to a regular job, or try to weather through a sector that has been devastated and won’t return to normal for years? Over a decade she spent building her business and she went from the height of success to contemplating closure. What should she do?
My husband and I had the difficult conversation of what we were going to do if he was called back in to work and no longer able to work from home. If he had to return to his office earlier than we thought, could I continue to work and home school? He called another colleague who has children with a working spouse for advice. Their plan? She would likely quit her job to stay home. We then had our own tough conversation. Whose career would we forego for our children’s education if we were forced to make that decision?
It would be me.
It is not surprising to hear that in the last month submissions by women in higher education to research journals publication have dropped—or that men’s have increased. When in higher education your rate of publications and research are directly related to promotions, tenure, opportunities, pay increases—this will pull women business educators even lower. (Women’s Academic Journal Submissions Plummet Amid Coronavirus.)
Yet every day, I hear news that reminds me of the strength and resilience and courage that women bring to the table, and our bright future when we are finally lifted from this hazy fog. It fills me with great pride that women leaders in Germany, New Zealand, Iceland and Finland who were some of the first to act with unpopular decisions, are now being seen as some of the most effective leaders in this crisis. (Why Do Women Make Such Good Leaders During COVID-19?)
Last week AACSB announced the new incoming CEO would be the first woman. Ever. In more than 100 years. (New AACSB CEO Is Academic Leader and Industry Advisor)
It’s been tough getting the blog and website launched for Women in Business Education. I have kicked myself a few times. I spent five years thinking of and planning this idea, and then this happens? Why didn’t I do this last year? Or the year before? Or for goodness sake, even six months ago.
So I asked my good friend, “how can I try to launch when so many people are struggling? How can I in good conscious start—when everyone else is ending? Am I crazy?”
She laughed. “Lisa, don’t you remember why I started my business in the first place? I started in 2008, when the economy was all mucked up. I’ll figure all this out and so will you.” Sometimes you need to hit pause, take a deep breath, stand still and find the courage to decide which fork in the road to take next.
Something is calling me to not give up. To not give into the temptation of Netflix or Tiger King or exhaustion or that really good book I want to re-read. Instead after putting in a long day at my day job, while organizing art class for the kids on the side, I tuck the girls in bed and I grab my laptop and sneak downstairs. I light a few candles, play some soft music and I stay up late into the night to design something powerful, inspiring and life changing.
Great change is happening. Sometimes to face this change you need to pause, but other times getting through each day means forging ahead into the unknown.
There is no worse time to launch a new venture, but there is no better time to bring women in business education and their champions together to change the world.
So the first message I want to send to you, in my very first blog post, on a website that is only a few hours old, is dedicated to all those women out there, those looking at lost plans, unfunded positions, destroyed dreams, Zoom overload, and cancelled conferences, to those whose programs are being cut, or the ones who have to make the tough choice of which programs to cut:
It’s okay to hit pause. It’s okay to move forward. Hang in there. You will figure this out.
Founder & CEO
Women in Business Education
Follow along the newly launched Women in Business Education, or WiBE (pronounced We-Be) an international community to champion women’s leadership in business academia. Subscribe here to receive new inspiring blog posts and virtual events.
Lisa Leander is an international development and management expert with eighteen years experience managing higher education initiatives in 22 different countries. In addition to leading WiBE, she currently is a Senior Advisor to the Global Business School Network where she previously spent a decade working to improve management and entrepreneurship education globally. During the day you might find her advising U.S. multinational companies navigating complex market opportunities in the Middle East, creating complex art creations with her two daughters or attempting to train a high energy german shepherd.