No more tiaras

I am the proud godmother to three amazing little girls. It is an honor to be chosen for this special role. In addition to serving as a role model of faithfulness (eek!?) I also believe that one of my duties as godmother is to role model feminist, inclusive leadership and work-life negotiation strategies. I haven’t yet told the parents of these girls that this is how I see myself as godmother. Hopefully they are okay with this since they chose me! Two of them are my siblings, so I think I am okay.

Two of my three goddaughters recently had birthdays and I refused to buy them tiaras. I bought tutus, wands, journals and feather pens, and pretend play shoes and jewelry. But, I drew the line at a tiara. When we were in Toys R Us, my sons kept pointing them out and asked why we couldn’t get them. I fumbled over the answer and tried to explain in terms they would understand what a tiara represents. I did not do so well on the spot. After some reflective time, my answer is this: Tiaras imply weakness. Tiaras imply something that is given to a young girl for superficial reasons- looks, personality, bikinis. Tiaras are usually given to girls by a “higher” power, usually a man, because said higher power has deemed the recipient worthy.

Here’s the thing. We are already worthy. We are already enough. My goddaughters don’t need anyone to give them a tiara. If they want one, they can go out and earn it (or a promotion, or a raise, or whatever a tiara means to them). Which, given what I have witnessed from them already and their amazing parents, I have no doubt they will! Go get it ladies! (Note to parents and others with special little women in their lives. I am not anti-tiara. I am anti what tiaras represent. If your little girl loves dress up and pretend play and tiaras, then carry on!)

Professional tiaras

I recently had my own tiara-resistance moment. I have applied for a job. It is within my current setting, but with a completely different focus- alumni development. On paper, it is a dream position- develop relationships, network with, and create programs for young alumni. Swoon! I knew that the position was going to post and I thought about just submitting my materials and then waiting. Like I have done with every other job search in my life. In the past, I have absolutely been guilty of the Tiara Syndrome. Carol Frohlinger of Negotiating Women, Inc. says that TS involves keeping your head down, doing good work, and waiting for people to notice and reward you.

Instead of waiting to be noticed, I emailed the person who would be my supervisor if I got offered the position and I asked him to coffee. I was bold. I was direct. I did not wait, I advocated for myself. I said, “I would like to learn more about your office and what you do. Can I take you to coffee?” I have never done this before in my entire life. I was absolutely terrified. Was I too bold? Was I pushy? Would it be awkward if he said no?

He said yes. We went to coffee and I learned a TON about the office, his style, the position, and what he is looking for. I told him that I would be applying and then indicated why I would be a strong candidate. Again, I have never done this before in my life. Guess what? It didn’t hurt. It was actually really fun. It was useful, helpful, and informative. Even if I don’t get offered an interview, it was a good use of my time, personally and professionally. Even if I don’t get the job, I know more about Alumni Relations and what the “work” is. This information will only help me.

This morning, this article came across my Twitter feed: “Don’t ever apologize for being a good parent and other lessons for hard-working women.”

I am in love with this post by Stacy Janicki. It says, for me, so many things that I am trying to practice in my own life and work. It says so well the career counseling and leadership advice I am trying to share with my students. She talks about the tiara syndrome and how to combat it. She encourages women to learn self-promotion skills and to ask for what they want.


No more tiaras!

No more tiaras!

Have you had a tiara-resistance moment?

Own it

I recently attended the NASPA region 4E Women In Student Affairs (WISA) bi-annual drive-in conference. Before the conference, at the conference, and post-conference many of the participants were tweeting and talking about Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

In my post-conference euphoria- you know that feeling. You go back to your job inspired and revved up to change the world- I purchased both of these books and started reading away. I drank the Kool-aid and I am so grateful I did. I read Daring Greatly while on vacation. I could not put it down. I finished Lean In about two weeks ago. I strongly suggest that anyone, woman or man, who is looking to know herself better and become an even stronger leader read both of these books. You will not regret it.

Dr. Peggy Burke of DePaul University gave an amazing and inspiring keynote presentation centered around both of these books and the idea of “owning it.” In short, women leaders often sabotage themselves by not owning their own accomplishments. We are socialized to be polite, team players who demure in the spotlight. We give credit to others for our accomplishments because taking credit is boastful or worse, bitchy.

Hearing this was like being hit upside the head with a mallet. This was more than an a-ha moment. This was an “oh my gosh, I have been doing myself a huge disservice and it explains a lot, and I need to stop doing that” moment.

Related to my own completion of my doctorate degree, I have done this for the last three years. Heck, I did it that morning at the conference! I was sitting at a table of colleagues and got chatting with the woman next to me. We shared that we are both moms, mid-career, etc. etc. She told me that is she beginning her doctoral work this fall and then she asked me, “how did you do it?” And the first words out of my mouth were, “I had help. I had an amazing partner who took on a lot…..My kids were great sleepers….I had a graduate assistantship that covered some tuition…..” All of which are completely true. And, part of the answer.

The problem is, I have let all those explanations become the answer rather than just part of it. There are many reasons for this, I am sure. I am still figuring those out. But, I am now on a personal and professional mission to claim my accomplishments, to profess them openly without boasting or bragging, and to actively encourage other women to do the same. I have a lot to contribute to whatever environment I choose to be in. And, so do you. So own it!

So, Monica. Question: “how did you finish your doctorate degree in five years, while maintaining part-time employment, have two children, shepherd one of those children through a life-threatening illness, and stay married?”


I worked my tail off.

I had a singular, laser-like focus for five years.

I established a reading, writing, and dissertating schedule that I protected as sacred.

I am a strong writer.

I love to read and be in a classroom of fellow learners.

I was never going to allow my life circumstances to become an excuse for not finishing.

I owed it to myself to finish what I started.

I am not a quitter.

Those PhD robes are classy and I wanted them.

Once earned, an education can never be taken away from you. I earned mine. I had help. Lots of it. But I went to class, I did the work, it’s my name on that diploma. So, I am owning it.

What areas of your life do you need to own? Are there other leaders in your circle who should be encouraged to do the same? I would love to share “owning it” stories with you. Let’s connect!