Skip to main content
The M Dash

Live with purpose.

Photo: Metro State University.

There’s Power in Pivoting

Trying to figure out how to “have it all”? You’re having the wrong conversation.

By Emily Tisch Sussman

I admit it. I used to think I could “have it all.”

I was fully bought into the “lean in” culture, which suggests that women just need to speak up or have a little more confidence, and suddenly they’ll be able to manage both their personal and professional lives with ease—and keep them separate, of course.

Yet, after having three kids in three years, I was hit with a stark reality: my political career in Washington, D.C.—the thing I had worked so hard for and that had become my identity—was no longer sustainable. It was a devastating realization at the time; even with my wonderful husband and children, I lost a core piece of my identity, and I immediately began to feel as if I had failed. Why could so many other women balance a thriving personal life with their professional careers?

But as I talked to the women around me, I began to realize that I was not alone. In fact, it became clear that many women, like me, were keeping a dirty little secret: that their personal experiences were major drivers in their professional decisions. 

This discovery led me to launch She Pivots, a podcast dedicated to lifting up the stories of women who pivoted and found success.

Photo: Ana Gambuto.

I’m continually inspired by our guests, like Susi Massey, who escaped the cult in which she was raised, got an education, and entered the roofing industry. Now, she teaches women about the roofing trade, a full-circle moment for her that she would’ve never dreamed possible.

“Don’t let the expectations of other people define or limit you,” Susi told me on She Pivots. “We make our own destiny, and that’s the truth.”

Or, Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code and The Marshall Plan for Moms, who hid her painful struggles with infertility because of a preconceived notion of what success meant. Like me, she was sold a lie of “corporate feminism.” 

“I bought into this thing that we even had a shot at equality,” Saujani shared on She Pivots. “If we just got a mentor, if we just color-coded our calendar, if we just raised our hands more without thinking about what we wanted to say, if we were just braver. [It’s] what I call the big lie of corporate feminism, and I had been selling it. Like, I had been selling it, dishing it out.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who helped kick off the second season of She Pivots and arguably has made one of the biggest pivots a person can make, talked about her very personal motivation for becoming a prosecutor. 

“One of my best friends in high school—while we were in high school, I learned that she was being molested,” Harris recounted during our live She Pivots podcast recording. “And I learned what it was and…the powerlessness that also is a part of it, that one is rendered to feel as though they are powerless. And, in many ways, that was one of the reasons I became a prosecutor.”

Photo: White House.

It’s incredibly inspiring to hear a woman in such a position of power share that her own career was motivated by something that happened in her personal life. And it reminded me that when we don’t bring our full selves to our work—when we hide the personal motivations that push us to career changes—we’re doing ourselves and those around us a disservice.

Throughout my conversations with our guests on She Pivots, I’ve realized that trying to figure out how to “have it all” isn’t the right conversation. It’s about figuring out how to embrace the personal things that shape our careers—whether it’s having a baby or discovering a new, fulfilling hobby. It’s about redefining success. 

My political career in D.C. wasn’t sustainable in the end; but I’ve landed in a better place post-pivot. I can have conversations with inspiring women about their own pivots, while also having the space to enjoy the special moments with my children as they grow up.

If you’re thinking about pivoting, take this advice from style icon Stacy London, one of our She Pivots guests: “I think anytime that our perception of ourselves is attached to something that is in the past, we are doing ourselves a disservice…It is the time to listen, to receive, to pause, to focus on your needs. And then pivot and decide how to move forward.”

You can listen to She Pivots wherever you get your podcasts.

Written By

Emily Tisch Sussman

Emily Tisch Sussman is a podcast host, women’s empowerment and family policy advocate, leading democratic political strategist, contributing editor to Marie Claire, and mother of three. Emily is the host of the award-winning podcast She Pivots, which features women, their stories, and how their pivot became their success.

See more of Emily's articles

Read on.

Back to Top