9 Lives for Women is a career advisory firm for current and returning professionals. Through individual coaching services, live and online seminars, a popular blog and speaking at large events, founder Kathryn Sollmann helps smart, highly educated women integrate work and life through many ages and stages.
The company is also the creator of MAKE WORK FIT LIFE events, gathering 200 women for the May, 2016 premiere in Stamford, CT which was sponsored by AXA Advisors, Cigna, Ernst & Young, Fidelity Investments, Raymond James, Wells Fargo Advisors and News 12 Connecticut. Through this event (and a book Kathryn has underway, The Flexible Work Fix: A Caring Woman’s Guide to Blending Family, Work & Financial Security), 9 Lives for Women is launching a new, pragmatic dialogue on women and work. Kathryn believes that predominant”lean in” and “can women have it all” discussions link work primarily to the pros and cons of “get to the top” career advancement, skirting the issue of career sustainability and long-term financial security. The real question is whether women can fund a retirement that could last 30+ years—as well as all of life’s “you never knows”. Most women need to find a way to work in some way from college to retirement—and flexibility is key. The 9 Lives for Women mission is to keep women working.
Though Hillary Clinton’s presidential nomination may prompt more little girls to say they want to be president when they grow up, Kathryn believes that any increased fervor for women to “lean in” will largely fall on deaf ears. Just as very few women would want the overwhelming responsibility of the presidency, she has learned in 15 years of coaching professional women that few are actually interested in breaking the glass ceiling to pursue the all-consuming C-Suite life.
Politically correct women’s leadership programs miss the fact that most highly educated, accomplished women are not interested in getting to the top…they want and need less life-consuming and more sustainable flexible work that accommodates child and aging parent caregiving roles. But that flexible work still seems obscure and out of reach. Career resources cater almost exclusively to those seeking traditional work. Women’s professional organizations extol the virtues of the high-flying career. Too many women continue to believe their only option is the more than full-time corporate grind.
Without knowledge of the emerging freelance economy and increased opportunities for flexible work, scores of high potential, mid-career women off ramp for a childcare hiatus spanning an average of 12 years. Soon after they return to the workforce, up to four aging parents need their hands-on or oversight care. Elder care derails second career plans for returning professionals and brings current professionals out of the workforce. The fact that 78% of mothers are in the workforce today is deceiving: this data point hides the reality that only a small percentage of women work without at least one costly caregiving break.
Caregiving detours dramatically erode long-term financial security: each year out of the workforce a woman forfeits up four times her salary in total compensation, benefits and saving/investing potential.
9 Lives for Women continually sounds a wake-up call for women who need to see the financial impact of career breaks for caregiving roles and the better work+life blend alternatives to climbing the corporate ladder. She poses what some may perceive as a counter-feminist argument: women should “lean in” to consistent flexible work that capitalizes on educations, offers professional fulfillment, continually builds personal financial security—but may not advance greater numbers of women to CEO roles.
Flexible work buffers the financial impact of life’s twists and turns: the 9 Lives for Women “Motherhood & Career Ambition Survey” of 500+ highly educated women in the mid 30s to mid 50s age demographic reveals that 73% have already experienced a major life “you never know” that posed a huge financial challenge.
9 Lives for Women is an empowering resource for capable women at all professional levels who need support and guidance as they secure long-term financial security for themselves and their families. As an alternative to expensive individual career coaching, Kathryn has also created a simple online course, Find A Flexible Job & Make Work Fit Life. In just a few hours, women learn how to aim for flexible work structures that best accommodate caregiving roles; pinpoint dominant expertise that meets very specific, part-time employer needs; sell marketable “specialist” strengths via resumes, Linkedin and more; maximize networking efforts to find truly flexible employers; and persuade interviewers they can add immediate value to understaffed projects/initiatives.
A frequent media resource on women’s work and life issues, Kathryn has been interviewed on The Today Show, on NPR—and by Mika Brzezinski for CBS News. She has been quoted in Forbes, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Money magazine, on CNBC.com and in many other national and regional publications. Since 2012 her award-winning blog, 9 Lives for Women, has been read by current and returning professional women around the globe and carried on Huffington Post, Linkedin, Forbes, The Conference Board and other major sites.