My story began in central New Jersey, where I grew up loving to read. I remember as a child making the fairly long walk to our public library in town, taking out a stack of books, and making the trek back, balancing the stack in both arms. To this day, I enjoy reading as a means of learning, escaping from daily pressures and relaxing.
The pivotal event in my life was when I lost both of my parents within a 14-month time frame. I was 24 years old when my mom passed first, after dealing with heart disease for many years, likely caused by rheumatic fever. About 6 months after we lost her, my father was diagnosed with cancer that progressed very quickly. After my mom’s passing, I cared for my dad without a lot of help. The events themselves as well as the caregiving shaped my approach to life, and the belief that my parents would have wanted me to live a full, happy and multi-dimensional one. I learned a great deal about relationships during this period of my life. It also strengthened my resolve to become a mom, and to mean as much to someone as my parents did to me.
I’ve spent at least half of my career in P&L-related roles, and as a result of doing well in such a role was asked to become the CMO of the mid-cap bank that I was working for at the time. I had already held several marketing-related roles, so moving into the CMO spot, which included responsibility for brand made sense. During this time, I was able to see the power of storytelling in capturing consumers’ imagination and driving their behavior.
My mom is my inspiration. During most of my childhood, she suffered from serious heart disease, yet you would never have known it. She had an incredible ability to persevere in the face of pain and difficulty, yet never missed a beat in terms of caring for her home and family. My day-to-day pales in comparison to what she endured. Yet, she was happy even in trying circumstances. It’s helped me to hold on during tough times, while managing a challenging career, and helping to raise 3 children simultaneously.
I would love families to be portrayed in content in more diverse ways; there are traditional families certainly, but the modern family takes many different shapes; single parent, two moms, two dads, etc. I believe seeing these increasingly common families portrayed in content and advertising will help with broader acceptance. There is much that we can learn from such families about gender roles and what constitutes family in the first place. For example, in same-sex couples, there is less focus around who earns the money and who does the rest of the traditional caregiving; both members of the couple likely do what it takes to support the family overall, as financial, as well as emotional resources, are needed to raise kids. My husband and I have role-modeled this for our children, and I hope that it leaves an impression on them.
One of the biggest barriers that I would like to see broken is the notion that in a family the male member of the couple is the primary earner, and the female member takes care of the home and family. For a whole variety of reasons, this just doesn’t work in many households. If people adhere to these ideals, as we are currently experiencing, if too much of the family-related work is placed on the woman, for example, it can lead to an inability to maintain outside paid employment, which hurts the family overall.
What comes to mind is the book “The Genius of Women,” a series of stories about why so many talented women were overlooked or even punished for their accomplishments throughout history, and more modern women who achieved despite obstacles. The author, Janice Kaplan, comes to the conclusion that successful, groundbreaking women share common traits, such as optimism, blindness toward bias, and the ability to multitask. The story of Frances Arnold, in particular, resonated with me. She is a chemical engineering professor at CalTech who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018. Arnold faced extremely trying circumstances yet carried on. Her husband died of cancer, she herself beat cancer, as well as enduring several other very difficult life experiences. That she was able to persevere and carry on is nothing short of incredible to me.
One thing that is top of mind for us at Prudential is caregiving, especially during these challenging times, where life is hard and so many are trying to maintain a living and to care for loved ones. We know that over 15% of American workers say they provide ongoing care for a chronically ill, disabled or elderly person, according to the Family Care Alliance. Women in particular have been hit hardest by the caregiving crisis, with many feeling the need to exit the workforce in order to care for their loved one full time. One in four female caregivers is considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of child care and other challenges due to COVID-19, according to LeanIn data. However, just one in five organizations offer paid or unpaid leave in addition to that mandated by federal and state FMLA requirements to meet the needs of caregiving employees. We at Prudential want to be responsive to the needs of women and all caregivers during such trying times. One way we are working towards this goal is through a partnership with Wellthy, a leading provider in the caregiving space. This partnership incorporates caregiving services as part of Prudential’s comprehensive financial wellness offering, addressing the increasing amount of help that families need to navigate caregiving situations.