Brandeis International Business School

#WorldReadyWomen: Q&A with Professor Grace Zimmerman (part 2)

Grace Zimmeman

Missed Part 1 of our interview? Read it here. 

Professor Grace Zimmerman is more than just the Brandeis International Business School MBA Program Director. She’s an entrepreneur, a mother, a self-dubbed “nontraditional” academic and a role model for our community of students and alumni. Her transitions from the marketing world to motherhood to academia are examples of the types of decisions many women in business have had to make to achieve a shifting work-life balance. We picked up our conversation on that topic.

We’ve talked a lot about shifts in the business world. What about work-life balance for women? Any change there?

The struggle for women of my generation was the expectation that we could have it all as long as we could figure out how to juggle everything. There is much more sharing of responsibility between mothers and fathers now, and that is enabling both parents to succeed professionally and as caregivers. The former expectation where mothers were responsible for the family and household might be why we see fewer women in the C-suite. We want something that’s more shared. I believe that women will be fully liberated when men are also liberated and when both care about work-life balance equally.

You had to make sacrifices along the way to achieve a new balance. Any regrets?

I loved being an entrepreneur. However, as a marketing professional in the startup world, I was constantly traveling. It was a very painful decision, but I decided that at the end of the day, having a really strong relationship with my children would trump any business deal I could make. I hated stepping out of that world because I love to work, to build and to problem-solve.

I found my way to the International Business School and academia after a lot of trial and error. It’s something I love that worked well when my kids were smaller that still allows me to build and share ideas. There were many years when I had “buyer’s remorse” for my former career. I learned that you can have everything, but not at the same time. I needed to reinvent myself in order to have my cake and eat it, too.

You’ve talked about encouraging your students. Is there anything you do in the classroom to promote thinking around equal opportunity?

If there are men who aren’t sure about the value of women with ideas and a strong point of view, then I hope that just by coming into my classroom they see the quality of intelligent, thoughtful and capable female professionals by observing fellow students and me. I don’t treat my male students any differently than I do those who are female. I expect that every single student who walks into my classroom is equally capable. 

What advice do you have for today’s generation of business leaders?

You can do absolutely anything you want, regardless of gender. It’s about figuring out how to balance your career and personal life as an individual. For each person, it’s a dance that is different at each stage of their life depending on a host of circumstances. But bottom line, I say to go for it. Do what works. There are no limits.

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