The challenge of balancing family life and successful careers in a “24/7” world drew both students and parents to the “Stopping for Directions: A Conversation about Career, Family, and Success” panel yesterday, held at the Starr Auditorium at the Kennedy School of Government.
In a conversation frequently punctuated by laughter, the three high-profile couples who made up the panel stressed the importance of shared values, commitment, and communication in not only the pursuit of success but the pursuit of happiness.
“It’s very important when you choose a mate that you choose a person you really enjoy being with and that their values are the same as yours,” said former New Hampshire judge and partner of law firm Shaheen & Gordon, Bill H. Shaheen. His wife, Jeanne Shaheen, served as New Hampshire’s first woman governor from 1997 to 2003 and is now the director of the Institute of Politics.
Sharon Meers, author and former managing director of Goldman Sachs, said that while she agreed with the Shaheens that “this is really about values,” it “is also about communication,” which she defined as a “joint understanding that our dreams both counted.”
She said that she and her husband, Steve Dostart, president of California-based Dostart Development Company, “had a lot of very explicit conversations about how our lives would mesh.”
All six panelists expressed support for their spouses’ careers and highlighted their children as their priority above all else.
“I had always seen myself as a father,” said Rakesh Khurana, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
“What I had agreed to was that I would be the primary caregiver,” Khurana said. “I was willing to sacrifice to have that.”
“That’s why I married him,” said Rakesh’s wife Stephanie Khurana, managing director of HigherAims, LLC. “I had always envisioned life as ‘you can have it all.’”
After the program, Laura S. Malisheski, assistant director at the Office of Career Services, said that “it’s a vital topic of discussion, one that really hits a nerve among students.”
Rather than attend the dinner after the program, Malisheski, in accordance with the message of the panel, said, “I’m going to go home and be with my kids.”