CareerWritten by Shara Enay On 27 October 2010

Last week at Hawaii Business magazine’s 3rd annual Wahine Forum, I learned an invaluable piece of advice, but it wasn’t what I expected to hear at a women’s conference, and especially from three no-nonsense local CEOs. Their message: You can’t have it all!

Faye Kurren, president and CEO of Hawaii Dental Services, Keiki-Pua Dancil, president and CEO of the Hawaii Science and Technology Council, and Christine Camp, president and CEO of Avalon Development Company, reiterated several times that women need to be realistic about what they can and can’t achieve. The fact is, they said, you can’t run a company, attend make-or-break meetings that often last into the evening, pickup your kids from school everyday, whip up a nutritious home cooked meal every night, and have a house that sparkles from top to bottom – something’s got to give. They’re real-life advice: Prioritize what’s most important to you in life and then let go what’s not.

“It’s OK,” Camp told the audience, if the laundry is piled up until the weekend or if you have to buy takeout once in a while when board meetings run late: Your kids will survive. Camp, who has a two-year-old son, said she made a conscious decision to have a child later in life so she could focus on establishing and growing her business.

The panelists all admit to having to make sacrifices in their personal lives because their jobs are so demanding. While she would’ve loved to pickup her children from school everyday and attend every extra curricular activity, Kurren said it just isn’t possible when the buck stops with you and a lot of people are depending on you for their livelihoods.

For the most part, I think many of the women in the audience were relieved to hear this message, but it didn’t sit well with everyone. After all, who wants to hear that they can’t have their ideal life? But, the panelists noted, there’s a big difference between not being able to have it all and not being able to do it all. In other words, if you’re lucky enough to have a strong support system – parents who can help roundup the kids from school, a husband who cooks and cleans, or a sister who can help pickup your dry cleaning – then maybe you can have it all. But you certainly can’t do it alone and it isn’t fair to put unrealistic expectations on yourself.

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Shara Enay

Shara Enay is a writer for Hawaii Business magazine. She is a graduate of Kaimuki High School and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the beach, traveling and watching UH sports.

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