As I was preparing to assist with the relaunch of our collaborative series Perspectives with Katie Kempner, it struck me that for all of the episodes of Katie’s show I’ve seen or have helped produce, I’ve yet to see a single episode focused on Katie herself. While Katie has certainly shared some of her many stories with her guests along the way, the spotlight has nearly always been on someone else. As we once again ready an amazing roster of interviews with inspiring women, this time around I thought it might be a good change of pace to talk to Katie about her own experiences, inspiration, and wisdom.
Q: You’ve long been at the forefront of the discussion when it comes to women in our industry achieving balance in their lives. How have you found balance in yours; what wisdom would you share with others – especially the younger generation entering the industry today?
It’s interesting because balance is such an overarching and also divisive word. Some women hate it, they feel like it is another thing they can’t live up to or have to work to achieve. I happen to love the word balance. To me, it means the way you live your days and fill them with all the things you need and want to do. Balance is different each day – sometimes it’s more work focused, sometimes it’s more home focused, most days it’s a combination of both. I do think I’ve found my own version of balance, but it changes all the time.
And that’s what I want women entering the industry to know. Life is constantly changing. Your career, your kids (if you decide to have them), your body—the way things are right now—whether good or bad—is not permanent. This fluidity means there is always the chance to adjust and make things work for you. If you don’t like how things feel right now, you can make a change. Obviously, some things are out of our control, but many are within. And to me that’s balance.
Q: You’ve interviewed so many women over the years, what has been your favorite or key personal learning moment – that piece of wisdom that you walked away with that transformed your life for the better?
Be your own best friend. That may sound like the biggest cliché of all times – and it just might be. The first time I heard it, I did everything I could not to roll my eyes. But it is actually so true. Treat yourself the way you would a close friend. Be kind, be thoughtful, do what’s in your best interest, speak up for yourself and give yourself praise when you deserve it. I’ve always been very hard on myself and I thought that was a way to make sure I stayed focused. But actually, you can be focused and be kind to yourself, and I wish I understood that sooner.
Q: From the perspective (no pun intended) of a professional industry woman, how has the industry changed? Are we doing better when it comes to helping our people achieve balance in the professional and personal lives?
The conversations around women have increased dramatically since I’ve been in this industry. From Thriving, Leaning In, the importance of inclusion and diversity to #MeToo, issues that had not been discussed, are – and that is incredibly important. From a balance perspective, I think the industry has changed in many ways for the better. Maternity, and for that matter, paternity leaves have been greatly increased in many companies, and even the way new mothers phase back in to their jobs is now being re-considered. The issue of women and aging and what that means for their careers is also now starting to be addressed. And all of this is important. But I do think there is still much progress to be made, which is one of the reasons it is so important to keep bringing issues to the forefront, and that’s what we are trying to do with “Perspectives.”
Q: What is your “go to” for personal inspiration?
When I need inspiration, I talk with my husband, Rob. He has a way of helping me clarify what’s on my mind. And I love getting massages. When my body feels good, I feel good. And wine. Always wine! Any combination of these three things and I feel like I can do almost anything!
Q: Imagine for a moment that you could truly “do it all over again,” what would you do differently to realize more inspiration in your own life?
I had my kids in my mid-twenties, so for most of my career I was a working mother. I was lucky in many ways to rise quickly in my career, but at the same time there was this pull between work and home, which often felt at odds with each other. Two things come out of this, in terms of doing it all over again. One, I would not have been so hard on myself. I had to work to support my kids and I also enjoyed working. I wish that I would not have felt so guilty when I was working. And two, I would have allowed myself to be more in the moment at home when I was not working instead of feeling like I had to constantly check my phone (and earlier in my career, my Blackberry).
So just to sum this all up – be present, don’t waste time feeling guilty, be your own best friend and drink wine. I’m either one big walking cliché or chockfull of useful wisdom. (Probably a bit of both.)
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