Whenever I’m asked how to navigate a career as a woman in national security, I say work hard, dream big and be true to yourself. That’s part of it. Here’s the other part:
You will face countless difficulties, some of which your male colleagues will never encounter. You will wonder whether and when to have children. You will suffer from impostor syndrome. Someone will mistake you for the assistant when you’re the keynote speaker. You will wonder if your male co-workers are getting paid more than you. You will pretend you can breast-feed twice a night and still function normally at work.
You will also swell with pride when you help solve an intractable problem. You will feel an overwhelming sense of purpose when a cabinet member asks for your help. You will meet other women who will throw you a lifeline when you need it most. You will multitask like no other. You will challenge age-old assumptions about women. You will make a difference.
But know that it will never feel easy. The so-called work-life balance will remain out of reach. And you will always wonder if you’ve gotten it just right.