Finally a Mother – Former Lehman’s CFO Erin Callan Is Not Leaning In

Erin lost herself in career, and what saved her in the end was finally becoming a mother.

Every ambitious woman can relate to Erin Callan’s story

Erin Callan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers, and highest ranking woman on wall street during the financial crisis in 2008, gave up her personal life in order to get to the top of the male dominated financial industry. 

Erin shares her experiences in her new memoir Full Circle.

Erin had a male dominated “no interference” approach to work. She saw having a child as an efficiency challenge. She even started on the adoption route once at age 39, not because she couldn’t conceive but because she would not be out of work for more than a couple of days.  At the time what she saw was that children and family did not slow down, or make any of her male colleagues lose focus.

Erin says we are always making adjustments to calibrate to the environment around us:

As a young woman, for her first day at Harvard, Erin showed up in a grey sweatshirt miniskirt and matching top (It was the eighties and Erin was brought up in queens). She wasn’t embarrassed- she was proud of who she was. But she new she needed to make some adjustments to fit in as a student at Harvard, and Erin did so, while maintaining her identity.

Later, in her career, Erin had to adjust again – this time to the demands of work. Working long hours was the norm. Erin started working a little on Sunday night to get organized for the week. Over time, her Sunday organization sessions turned into full blown workdays.

Events, relationships, birthday parties, spending time with friends and family were put low on Erin’s priority list. Eventually Erin was working around the clock. 

She adjusted too far and lost herself along the way.

Erin thinks there is a better way to the top that includes more love and peace.

Happy she paved the way and broke the glass ceiling, Erin still feels corporate America has to change. She doesn’t think she could have been a mother and a CFO at the same time. Source Video

At the height of her career, Erin Callan had the ear of some of the most successful men on the planet, and it made her think -what couldn’t she accomplish? She, at one point was eve dubbed “Alpha-female”.

It made her feel invincible she says in her book.

Sheryl Sandberg says,  “Lean in – don’t lean back. Put that foot on the gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision and then make it. That is the only way you’ll have a decision to make.”

Erin says in her memoir, “I am saying it’s ok to lean back. It’s up to you – it’s your choice. You want to break the glass- ceiling like I did go for it. You don’t? That’s ok too. It’s your choice.

 

In hindsight, Erin thinks she could have gotten the job of CFO of Lehman Brothers without doing everything she did. As Erin puts it, there are some things, some activities that provide diminishing returns that she could have not done, that might have created a  more balanced life.

We have to fine tune ourselves to our environment to be successful, but without completely letting go of ourselves. 

Finally in February 2015, at nearly 50 years of age, Erin gave birth to her daughter Maggie, and found a greater sense of fulfillment and peace.

xo,

Jamie

Readers do you think it is possible to balance family and career success in a large Fortune 500 Company? Please share in the comments.

 

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