Friday, July 20, 2012

Exploring Career Paths I - Musician

Part of my purpose is starting this blog is to explore how women navigate a career and personal life. To that end, I’m going to start posting mini-interviews with women at all stages of their career, to document the diversity of experiences and meanings of ‘having it all’. Starting off is women very dear to me, who’s had an immeasurable positive influence on me.
She is a musician working in and around the church. If you’d be willing to share your experiences, I would love to hear about them. You can email me at  The ‘interview’ is really just a series of questions! All ages, disciplines, stages of career, are welcome. 

When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I remember having limited choices available culturally - nurse or teacher - neither appealed to me.  I remember my dad telling my brothers when he was frustrated with his career, "Don't ever be an electrical engineer" and telling us girls "don't ever marry an electrical engineer". And even though my mom taught piano I never thought I would be a musician professionally.

How did you decide to start on your current career?  
That implies that I really had a plan and knew what I was doing!  I feel more like I wandered around through life. I did love playing music and playing it loud on the organ! I really didn't have any mentors or help in figuring out what jobs were even possible - and did music jobs after college (and while in college and graduate school) because it was something I knew about and was good at and enjoyed; all good reasons to continue on that path. Of course the decisions not to pursue some possibilities- graduate school in organ performance, premed in college - were also path makers, too. 

Are you happy with your current job in relation to what you hoped for?  
I feel truly blessed that I've been able to make a steady income as a musician. I know I am the exception to the rule. There are many things I love about my job, such as flexibility, bringing people together to make magical music, working in a place with high moral values, and family friendly, which makes up for the small paycheck. 

Did you ever experience a ‘glass ceiling’ or discrimination as a woman? Are you willing to share your experience? 
In church work we call it the "Stained Glass Ceiling" and yes I have. Most of the high paying, full time, highly visible music director positions are held by men.  It is hard when people complement you by saying you play like a man. I was once denied a job because of my husband's religion.  But things have improved for women in jobs as music directors and as pastors and church leaders in most progressive denominations, that is a good thing!  Part of my path was influenced, like so many other parents, by the decision not to pursue work full time (these positions are rare and would have meant moving around) to have time with children and spouse and be close to our families. 

What does ‘having it all’ mean to you personally? Do you feel like you can/have achieve(d) it?
 "Having it all" for me means finding a fulfilling, meaningful balance in my life, relationships, and career.  Most days I think I have it! But others looking at my salary, my lack of free weekends or the two day equivalent of time off, and my lack of the latest material possessions may not see that. I'll admit that the times raising small children were very challenging, with not enough time and patience - which is why it was so good for me to balance parenting with working my jobs and having adult conversations. My husband's ability to work part time (because of his chosen field) and his job's benefits, and his willingness and ability to share so many responsibilities, have made it possible for me to do the job I have now. I don't know how I could have made it without him for a life partner - another great blessing in my life and career.  But the decision for neither of us to work full-time has meant financial sacrifices (relatively speaking - we still live such privileged lives compared to most people in the world) and seeing our friends be able to do things that we cannot. 

Did/do you have to worry about when/if to have children? 
Yes, we waited several years, and then it took over a year before children came along. We made the decision along the way to wait until my husband was through with school and were financially stable enough.  But we always knew we would have children someday - my husband more so than me.

How can we encourage women to pursue their dream jobs? Role models, mentoring, cultural permission to work and have a family life, demanding equal pay for equal work, valuing parenting as a huge benefit to our society (as well as other things, too - volunteering, mentoring), national  support for children in terms of services and finances.

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