Leaders share perspectives on navigating work-life integration

Leaders share perspectives on navigating work-life integration

By Brittney Bomnin

Leaders share perspectives on navigating work-life integration

By Brittney Bomnin
During a virtual panel discussion, University female administrators discussed how COVID-19 has presented opportunities to rebalance priorities at work, at home, and in life. And they credited the strength of other colleagues for offering them firm support.

Top female leaders at the University of Miami gathered virtually on March 26 to share the insights and perspectives regarding the many ways they have navigated work-life integration throughout COVID-19. Hosted by the Human Resources’ Office of Workplace Equity and Inclusion, and in honor of Women’s History Month, “Visionary Women: COVID-19 and Work-Life Integration” offered attendees the opportunity to learn from the speakers

“My life is a circus and I embrace it,” said Erin Kobetz, vice provost for research and scholarship and professor of public health sciences. Kobetz—who took on the role of vice provost on June 1, while managing the intricacies of working from home and juggling family and work responsibilities—shared how embracing and becoming comfortable with imbalance in her life has helped shape her approach. “The pandemic has forced me to slow down and prioritize what matters,” she added. “It’s given me an opportunity to pause.”

Working closely with other leaders to manage the University’s COVID-19 response, Kobetz has drawn strength from her network of strong, capable colleagues and friends. “It’s important to be transparent, connect, and realize we don’t exist in a vacuum,” she said, a sentiment echoed by Jessica Brumley, vice president of Facilities Operations and Planning. 

As a leader overseeing a number of University departments, Brumley stressed the importance of reaching out for support, especially when there is pressure to initiate change and succeed. “We’re not alone and we don't have to do everything by ourselves,” said Brumley. “Being able to prioritize and delegate is a key skill as a leader. You have to be able to realize you can’t do everything and trust your team to do their job.”  

Giving birth to her second child days before the pandemic forced South Florida into lockdown, Marisol Capellan, lecturer and associate director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program for the Miami Herbert Business School, came home to a different reality with a newborn. Along with managing her doctoral studies and caring for her five-year-old, she had to forgive herself when she couldn’t get it all done. “None of us were equipped for the challenges we were facing,” she added. “But knowing when to reach out, turn off, and have compassion made all the difference in maintaining my mental health and well-being.”

For Berthi Hotham, assistant vice president of enterprise business solutions, working remotely—something she had done before—took on a new meaning during the pandemic with small children at home around the clock. “I realized I was trying to keep my family’s routine the same,” Hotham explained. “My sanity was the sanity of my family. I had to reassess everything and make changes.” She and her family have benefitted from taking a step back every few weeks to revisit the routine, make changes, and incorporate new variables.

The panelists addressed the importance of learning to manage emotional responses to everything from trivial interactions to high-stress, decision-making moments. “We work with human beings who, by nature, have emotions and we should expect colleagues to show them,” shared Capellan. While there are conflicting expectations when it comes to women showing emotions in the workplace, Brumley adds that it's important to tap into emotions and acknowledge and use them. “I have learned to trust my gut,” she said. 

All the panelists acknowledged that relationships are key to navigating challenges. “I credit my sanity and success during a period of uncertainty to my friendships with other women,” declared Kobetz, who, like the others, draws on the strength of other female colleagues to share and work through difficulties and experiences. “I couldn't have done any of it without the amazing people I get to work with every day,” she added.

As part of the event, the Women’s Commission announced two award recipients. This year’s May A. Brunson Award went to Linda L. Neider, and the Louise P. Mills Award was presented to Katelyn Menninger. A professor in the Miami Herbert Business School teaching management and in the Department of Health Management and Policy, Neider has worked to champion inclusion and equity at every level elevating the status of women at the University. As an undergraduate student at the University of Miami, Menninger has worked to introduce and expand engineering programs locally, advocating for women in the South Florida community. Learn more about the awards and recipients. 

The conversation was moderated by Jacqueline Menendez, vice president for University Communications, and ended with a summary of key themes by Mary Harper Hagan, vice president for Human Resources. View a recording of the panel discussion. For questions related to the virtual session, contact the Human Resources’ Office of Workplace Equity and Inclusion at wei@miami.edu

Attendees had the opportunity to share their takeaways from the event through a survey. The following are a few of the comments that were submitted.

“This session validated how amazingly wonderful women are! We are strong, courageous, and resilient, even during the most turbulent times.”
—Eva Olivares, research manager, Office of the Vice President for Research

“A key takeaway for me was to practice self-compassion and think about the silver linings of our situation.”
—Maria Valero-Martinez, manager, Research Training, Office of Research Administration

“A lot to think about, I loved the honesty and transparency and the sense of community resulting from this session.”
—Patricia Atkinson, research navigator, Office of Research Administration

“Wonderful session! Absolutely feeling inspired—immediately after!” 
—Diamari Torres Pedroso, assistant director, Business and Finance Communications

“It’s okay to take time for yourself and not be about work 24/7. Sometimes you need that reminder.”
—Dianne Rubin-Anderson, senior business systems analyst, UM Information Technology

“My key takeaway is it is okay to feel overwhelmed, but also know how to pause and then handle whatever situation you must handle.”
—Dacia Simpson, director, Classroom Management