Since the second half of the 20th century, women have made major contributions to the U.S. labor force.
According to a study published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in June of 2017, this started in the early 1960s, when women of the baby boomer generation began entering the labor force in large numbers. By year 2000, there were 66.3 million women in the labor force making up 46.5 percent of the U.S. labor force overall, and according to BLS projections, the number of women in the labor force is expected to increase to 77.2 million by 2024.
As more women enter the workforce, it leaves some of us wondering how do women do it? How have women managed to keep succeeding while also maintaining a family life at home?
It is best to ask some of Missouri’s own hardworking women. Three of these women have not only succeeded within their careers while balancing a family, but have also managed to connect with the public and give back to their community throughout different stages of their lives.
First Lady Teresa Parson is a mother of two, a grandmother of five and an active volunteer and advocate who serves through her faith.
Within her 40 years working in the banking industry, Teresa raised her children at home with her husband, Gov. Mike Parson, and found a passion for helping others.
“I never considered that there were any obstacles when balancing my family life and my career,” Teresa explained. “Once I came home from work, I made sure that I was available to help my daughter Stephanie and my son Kelly with their homework, to attend their school functions, or just spend quality time with them at the dinner table.”
Teresa has served on the boards of the 30th Circuit Juvenile Detention Center Board, A+ Program, Industrial Development Authority, Bolivar Educational Advancement Foundation, Bolivar Chamber of Commerce and has volunteered for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“My community involvement actually began when I started working,” Teresa said. “Fortunately, my children share the same volunteer spirit that both Mike and I have. They have always reached out to others. Stephanie is a middle school teacher and the bank where Kelly serves as president is always involved in community projects.”
“If the children are young, make sure to give them all the time they need for nurturing,” she advised. “Never let a day go by without quality one-on-one time. If there is still time for volunteerism, try to find activities that the children may participate in. This will also teach them the value of reaching out to others. As the children grow older, they will have learned how to balance family time with their career or volunteer time on their own.”
Teresa retired from her career in 2016, but that certainly wasn’t the end of her success. In June of 2018, Teresa became the First Lady of Missouri as her husband was sworn in as our 57th governor.
“The transition to First Lady happened so fast, literally over the course of a weekend, that we all made the adjustment quickly,” she said. “Mike has been in public service at the Capitol for nearly 14 years, and in local government prior to that, so our children have grown accustomed to this lifestyle.”
“We decided early on that we would not allow our work to take precedence over our family,” Teresa added. “From day one, Mike and I have spent as much time as possible with our family. Whether it be a high school sports event in Sparta or a cross-country meet in Jefferson City, you will find the two of us cheering our grandchildren from the sidelines whenever we can.”
“Thankfully, my schedule as First Lady is always available for me to review,” she added. “Therefore, whenever I see that there is an opening that will allow me to spend time with my family, I go ahead and reserve it.”
Having supported her husband in the public eye for many years, her family life hasn’t had any significant changes since becoming the first lady. However, Teresa continues to succeed through her work with at-risk high-schoolers through Jobs for American Graduates (JAG) and advocating for special needs children.
Teresa recently visited Rolla’s B.W. Robinson State School in January to learn more about education for special needs children with Missouri Schools for the Severely Disabled. In March, she also spoke to the Springfield Chamber of Commerce in March about her work with JAG, which received a 98 percent success rate throughout 70 schools across Missouri.
When asking the first lady what encouragement she would give others who want to succeed after retirement, she responded with saying: “Go for it. Success is not measured in how much a person receives in life, but in how much they give.”
Elizabeth Huber is a 1982 electrical engineering graduate from the University of Missouri Columbia, co-owner of Huber & Associates, a mother of two and founder of the St. Nicholas Academy.
After graduating with her degree, Elizabeth began a career with IBM in Tucson, Arizona, and eventually transferred to the IBM sales offices in Missouri. By 1986, Elizabeth and her husband, Jim, created their own IT company, Huber & Associates.
“Starting a business is risky, so when we started ours, I kept my job with IBM to ensure we had at least one stable income to make the house and car payments,” she said. “I was working full time at my job and nights and weekends at our business. It was very exciting and very hectic!”
Eventually Elizabeth and Jim had their first son, David, in 1992.
“Life changed from hectic to crazy,” Elizabeth said. “Luckily, I had a great friend/mentor at work who recommended the best babysitter in the world, and we were able to get the trusted help we needed in child care. However, within a year, we decided we needed to focus on our business and family, and I retired from IBM and went to work full time at Huber & Associates.”
By 1996 Elizabeth had given birth to her second son, Michael, but as a new business owner she felt she had to set an example for her employees.
“So I was back at work in six weeks,” she said. “That was really tough, but I think it made us better employers because we have recognized the challenges of balancing family life with work that our employees face.”
Elizabeth and her husband were able to divide some of their responsibilities in order not to become too overwhelmed.
“At Huber & Associates we have always had to be ‘on call’ for our clients,” she explained. “As parents, we are always ‘on call’ for our children. By necessity, Jim and I gradually evolved and divided our responsibilities; he remained ‘on call’ for clients, while I was ‘on call’ for the children. Of course, there have always been situations where these roles reversed, especially when one or the other of us had to travel on business, but we handled them as a team.”
“Balancing a career and family life can be very difficult, but a balance is important,” she added. “Having my husband, Jim, as both my life and business partner has made it easier for me to balance work and family life, as we are always there to back each other up. There have been many times when we have had to ‘divide and conquer’ to take care of our business and our children, but we are both very understanding and aware of the requirements and challenges and we work as a team to handle them.”
But she advises parents should also forgive themselves when they can’t do it all.
“You will always have to set priorities, and the items that end up on the bottom of the list will not get done, and that is OK,” Elizabeth said. “Take care of the important things, and say ‘no’ to the ones that are less important.”
Elizabeth also noted that since they started their business, they were always able to talk business at home.
“Since we started our business several months before we got married, we have never had a separation of work and home life,” she said. “I am always amazed to hear married couples say that they never talk about work at home! Before we had kids, work was always the No. 1 topic of discussion, and now that we are ‘empty-nesters,’ work is once again a popular topic for us. Hopefully, grandchildren will change that some day!”
When asked if she would change anything knowing what she does now, Elizabeth responded, “yes.”
“I would spend more time taking care of myself by cultivating more relationships with other women,” she said. “We find ourselves so busy as wives, mothers and business people that we often don’t take time for ourselves and the other women in our lives. We have so much to learn from each other, and I feel I have missed out on some learning experiences that could have helped me along the way to have been a better wife, mother and business person.”
With her children now grown, Elizabeth continues to succeed in her business and has more recently become the founder of St. Nicholas Academy.
“This last year, I have had to step away from the office almost daily to keep academy appointments and check on the progress of the building renovation,” she said. “Our employees have been wonderful in their support; they have held me accountable for making progress, and they have greatly helped in the building renovation and its furnishing.”
Elizabeth hopes to begin the application process for students by this summer. The academy will serve as a new boarding school for up to a dozen under-resourced children to receive temporary housing and education.
“Throughout this over four-year process, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing, generous and giving people,” she added. “The Jefferson City area community is amazing!”
Morgan Werdehausen is the associate director with Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation and has been employed with Jefferson City Public Schools since 2014.
But when Morgan and her husband, Kyle, graduated college and moved back to Jefferson City nearly seven years ago, they realized that making time for family would always be a top priority.
“Before Kyle and I were married, we were actively seeking a church to attend,” Morgan explained. “Our pastor shared how we, as people, make room for so many things in our life. Many of these things we prioritize, many we use to ‘fill our schedule’ and how many times, people may place church as a filler rather than a priority. Within the sermon, he shared that in his life, next to God, his family is a top priority. He continued to share with the congregation that one night a week, (he) and his wife would host their children at their home for dinner. That one certain night they would share a meal together and engage in conversation together in the comfort of their home. As we continued to explore our faith in God together, this particular part of the sermon really hit home for Kyle and I.”
A few years later, the two began their own family with the birth of their daughter, Mattie, and soon realized their priorities would have to change.
“As a young, active couple, prior to having children, my husband and I were very involved with recreational sports teams,” she said. “When we had our daughter Mattie (three years ago) we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to be as involved in those things as we wanted to. In fact, we tried to compromise and cut our sports nights back to two nights a week, but realized even that seemed to be too much with a new addition to our family.
“It was hard. This was our time to spend together and with our friends, but having our first child, being brand new parents, having so much to learn, we felt we were missing out. Missing out on spending that time with her, watching her grow. Missing out on quality, family time. We had to find a balance, not just for our little family of three, but with immediate families too.”
“Do your research and take time to make sure that whatever you’re considering is not going to jeopardize those priorities,” she added. “It is OK to not be a ‘yes’ person and to say ‘no’ from time to time. Realize it’s OK to have to take a step back if it’s going to take away time from what is most important to you.”
Thankfully, Morgan has a good family support system, as well as a career that’s willing to help balance the two.
“I’m very fortunate to work with a supervisor who places family as a top priority just as much as I do,” Morgan said. “Most of the time I’m reaching out to her, asking how she would handle a certain situation that may come up when it comes to balancing the two. But, for the most part, if there is ever a time that I need to take an extended lunch or leave early to care for my daughter, or schedule a doctor’s visit, I can do so, without feeling any sense of guilt.
“But, with that, it’s an understanding that I will balance my time,” she added. “If I do take an extended lunch or leave early, I’m always sure to make up my time accordingly or take my appropriate leave time.”
As Morgan became settling in as the associate director with Jefferson City Public Schools, and as a new mom, she decided that she wanted to begin giving any extra time she had to give back to her community.
She has since served on the Jefferson City Alumni Association Board as board secretary, is active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ on-site mentoring program, serves as a member of the United Way’s Dental, Eye and Shoe Program board and is a member of Jefferson City’s Young Professional Group.
“When I started with Jefferson City Public Schools four years ago, I often had seen or heard of the great things my co-workers were involved with and being a part of within the community. … It encouraged me to get involved,” Morgan said. “Shortly after getting my feet on the ground, I realized how much this community meant to me and how much I wanted to give back to a place that offered me so many opportunities.
“I soon became a part of the Jay Pride Alive Alumni Association, thanks to the recommendation of a co-worker, which really opened my eyes to how re-connecting with your roots can give so much more back to schools,” she said. “The work of this organization engages alumni and allows them be a part of supporting today’s youth. Being involved in this organization allowed me to meet new people and make connections within the community that has since opened doors to other volunteer opportunities like serving as a Big Brother Big Sister mentor, and being a part of the United Way’s Sneaker Project board.”
On top of it all, Morgan’s little family has recently grown with the birth of baby No. 2.
“It’s a big addition adding another child to the mix. It will be an adjustment both at home and work, but again, Kyle and I are very fortunate to have a strong family support system if we should ever get in a pinch,” she said.
Although having a new addition may cause some adjustments, Morgan plans to continue her volunteer work and working full time. Morgan mentioned that she also hopes to become a good example and role model for her children and family.
“I hope one day they can look back at my life and be proud of the person I was,” she said. “I hope to make a positive impact on others, whether that be through my line of work, my volunteer efforts, or just in my everyday interactions with people. But, mostly, I hope to be a person of integrity and to never lose sight of what is truly important in life.”