Four heavy hitters show how it’s done
Ambitious moms know a thing or two about how to scale the ladder to the top, while also intricately managing their home life. It might involve working three and a half hours before a Saturday soccer game, or taking a red-eye flight to make the kid’s concert on time, or phoning in mother-in-law help at home when leading a panel in China. The daily conqueror list spans tackling tantrums in the boardroom to mediating fierce negotiations at the kitchen table. Go ahead and give these women a time out already.
KATIE BEIRNE FALLON, Head of Corporate Affairs, Hilton
Fresh off maternity leave, Fallon is back juggling C-suite life at Hilton with her five-month-old daughter and four-year-old twin boys. “The second time at the rodeo is far easier than the first,” she says. Except rodeo number one started wildly when Fallon went into emergency labor in the West Wing as a senior advisor in the White House and was rushed to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital by the Secret Service and then- Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
Now, she’s got her home life talent pool in place: “I have a spouse [Brian, the national press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign] who leads the charge in making sure we have a lot of moments that matter with our kids. I have a mother-in-law who comes to town to help out when I travel, a friend who forces me to exercise, a friend who likes to declutter my closet, a friend who always has the latest tea to help with any mental or physical challenge and no shortage of friends who like to decompress over a glass of wine.” Even as Fallon helps Hilton mark its 100th year in business this year, her twins still think she works for “Uncle Obama” and that every hotel they see is Fallon’s office.
It’s all relative. “Working at Hilton feels like I am back at home in Cleveland with my whole extended family,” Fallon says of the family-friendly hospitality company that was recently rated by Fortune as the nation’s top place to work. She emphasizes that in the last two years, seven babies have been born to moms on her team, with four more on the way. “I hope that I have been a good example to them as they all challenge themselves to find the right balance, to stay focused on what really matters and to go easy on themselves because being a working mom can get messy!” She light-heartedly adds, “I’m not the only one on the team that has showed up to meetings with her shirt inside out.”
KIMBERLY JOHNSON, Chief Operating Officer, Fannie Mae
Johnson has spent the last year in her new role as chief operating officer strengthening Fannie Mae’s workforce and “fostering an environment where innovation can thrive.” For the year ahead, she is focusing on leading the company’s ongoing digital transformation and realizing a towering vision of reducing the time it takes to get a mortgage. Describing herself as optimistic, determined, curious and hard-working, Johnson, the mother of young student athletes Ava, 13, and Sadie, 11, finds it “remarkably gratifying to be part of something bigger than myself.” What’s challenging is deciding how to spend limited free time. “Between work and family commitments, it can be hard to make space for volunteering and community engagement,” she says. Taking red-eye flights to be home in time for her daughters’ activities is part of the power mom journey. So is making time for herself and investing in friendships to “keep it all in perspective.” Johnson comments on how a work culture based on “compassion, flexibility and appreciation,” can make a difference. Oh, and another imperative: “our babysitter is a delight.”
NICOLE EHRHARDT, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, George Washington Medical Faculty Associates
Ehrhardt’s son was just 14 months old when she was deployed to Iraq for nearly a year as an endocrinologist in the U.S. Army. She calls it one of the hardest things she has ever done. But like a soldier, she spares no time lamenting. “Yes, being a doctor is hard. Yes, being in the military is hard and no one should have to do it, but someone has to,” Ehrhardt says. After eight years in the army, the leadership teachings are paying off —both at her civilian role now with the Medical Faculty Associates at George Washington University, and at home. Along with seeing eight to 12 patients a day, she focuses on research and recently received a nearly $1.5 million grant to study disparities in diabetes for the Washington, D.C.-area Latino community. On the home front, she’s raising her two boys (ages 12 and 8) to “stand up and volunteer when it is the right thing to do.” She frankly admits she would be a “terrible” stay-at-home mom and stresses the need to be “very direct with your partner when you have an intense job.” Her expectations are clear: a 50/50 split in childcare with her husband. Just for the record, she says that “kids are much harder than work.”
GUIOMAR BARBI-OCHOA, International Activities Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts
Jet setting around the globe is perhaps “routine quotidienne” for Barbi-Ochoa, whose job for the NEA is to increase recognition of U.S. arts around the world. What’s exceptional is how this Nicaraguan/Italian who speaks four languages and once called both Rome and Paris home, has successfully integrated work and mothering into a new hobby as a family travel writer. After her day job, which now includes managing an upcoming 2020 artist exchange in Tokyo during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Barbi-Ochoa’s “free time” is recommending hotels, restaurants and activities for traveling parents with children at her site, cosmomommy.com. “Juggling lives is the hardest thing,” she notes after just completing a trip to Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Her advice to other power moms is simple: “Your kids will be fine! They really will. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and do a million different things thinking that’s what our kids want or expect. Do what you can. They will love you no matter what.”