Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in an organization dominated by powerful women leaders? Or imagined what your career would be like if your board of directors had strong women of influence who are also willing to provide you with mentorship opportunities?
Megan Tregunno has experienced this as the Vice President, Chief Advancement Officer at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) Foundation in Toronto. Over the past eight years with the Foundation, Megan has surrounded herself with a workforce that is 70% women – a legacy of women who are leading and changing the medical field, and has been fortunate enough to have leaders who have recognized and championed her incredible skills as a fundraiser, executive leader and a mom!
However, she recognizes that there is (still a lot of) work to be done in our sector to ensure women are supported and celebrated in career advancement.
Each call I have with Megan, I’m inspired by her wisdom, her honesty, and her openness about how she navigates being a mom to two boys under the age of five. I’m so glad our friend John Lepp encouraged me to be in touch with Megan when I first voiced concerns over trying to navigate this difficult path of excelling in my career while having children.
With a foundation in both communications and fundraising, Megan has worked her way up across the for profit and non-profit sectors and held various executive roles. She was the first and youngest woman in WCH Foundation history to earn executive-level promotions following both of her maternity leaves. Beyond that, she was recognized by the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy as an inaugural Top 40 Under 40 recipient in 2018.
You would think her plate would be full with her family, career and volunteer work, yet she continues to help champion change in our sector for women – as a speaker, mentor and as a change-maker.
I’m so thrilled to be sharing Megan’s views on career development, motherhood, and the need for a true blend between work and family-life commitments.
1. Briefly tell me about a day in the life of Megan Tregunno, Vice President, Chief Advancement Officer at Women’s College Hospital Foundation, and mother of two young boys?
My day starts early with a commute into Toronto from our home in Burlington. While motherhood is largely unpredictable, I try to plan as much as I can to ensure I have a blend of work and family time in each day. If I know my day is going to run late, I ensure I have dedicated time in the morning with my boys over breakfast. This usually involves me talking about what my day is going to look like, who I’m going to meet with, and then this of course opens the door for some pretty hilarious conversations or their general observations about life.
Once I’m on the GO train, I really try to use this time to read, listen to a podcast or respond to emails. My time in the city is spent working inside our mission (the Hospital!) or out with donors in their homes and offices. Much of my day is also spent supporting my team by strategizing and working with Hospital partners and colleagues. Once or twice throughout the day, I check in with my partner-in-crime (our caregiver, Shawna). I love receiving updates and pictures of our boys – this is the stuff that fill me up! I also usually send my husband dinner ideas or instructions somewhere in between meetings. This is the blend I was talking about.
If I’m not out at a late donor event or meeting with volunteers, once I get home I try to squeeze in a family workout before dinner and the bedtime routine starts. One of my favourite times is then putting our boys to bed. I love hearing about their day and telling them about what happened in mine. They are sponges! They know the names of all my team members, and many of the generous donors and families I work with. We talk about why people give and why it is important to help others.
After the kids are in bed, the reality is that my husband and I debrief on our days, and then usually log on to send a few final emails or catch up on the news.
2. Do you think a work-life-parenting balance is possible? If so, how do you work to find this balance?
It’s taken me a few years early in my motherhood journey to realize that it is not at all about a balance. Trying to achieve balance usually means that one thing will always outweigh the other. I tend to look at this as a blend. I wear many hats and often don’t take one or the other off. I am a stronger leader because of my skills and compassion as a mother and I am a stronger mother because of the sense of purpose I get out of my work and bring back to my family. I find the blend by bringing my whole self into each role I’m in.
3. What have you told yourself on the days where this balance seems impossible?
Finding the balance (or the blend) is not a destination, it’s an ongoing process. Every day is going to be different and you cannot compare one to the other. I try to find the joy and wins in each day and not compare myself or my situation to others.
4. If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is really struggling in their journey to find balance, what would you say?
Throw balance out the window! Work on creating a blend that works for your situation and family. Some days you will need to lean more into your commitments as a parent or caregiver, while other days you will need to lean into your work more. It was a life-changing moment when I stopped separating my personal calendar from work – I just started blending the two together. This way I’m able to manage my own expectations and know which balls I’m juggling in a full day or week.
5. In your opinion, what are the top 3 things our sector needs to do to help empower women as leaders?
For me, I would have to say: autonomy in the workplace, sponsorship and compensation.
It’s so important when an organization hires someone, that they hire them because they believe they can do the job. We need to adapt the traditional work structure to become more empowering – an autonomous culture where people are trusted to do the work when and how we need to get the job done. I have been lucky in my career to experience this, but I’ve also learned that you can’t wait for permission from someone else, you need to make your own decisions and lead from where you are – as a leader! People perform better and are happier when our personal buckets are full.
When I say sponsorship as something that is needed in this sector, it is a model that I’ve seen work well in the for-profit sector, and it is something our sector needs to address. Examples shared from women in the The Collective Wisdom of High-Performing Women give good definition to the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Sponsors lift you up and speak about you when you are not in the room, where as mentors give you advice. The non-profit sector can look to industry leaders from across our networks to act as sponsors for us. For example, looking to our board members and donors to help build sponsorship relationships will help to push our sector to become more progressive.
Last, compensation is critical. Yes, part of this involves salaries equal to male counterparts, but it is also about looking at what people value – vacation time, remote working or flextime. So many of us are navigating the blend of a career and life commitments. We need to support people in bringing their whole selves to work, because in the end this ultimately brings out the best in both our work and personal selves.
6. And lastly, when you do manage to find a few moments for yourself, what is your go to self-care activity?
Exercise is my medicine! I need this both physically and mentally. Since becoming parents, my husband and I have had to find creative ways to utilize our time together. We do 30-minute workouts in our basement and get the kids involved with us. Yes, they have their own 1-pound weights! This gives us the flexibility we need and time together rather than trying to negotiate time out alone at the gym. We also have a family dog and spend a lot of time outdoors together.
I’m grateful Megan took the time to share her wisdom, insights, and tips for how she finds her own blend. On top of all her commitments she also finds time to read (I’m sure it’s another way she fills her bucket and takes care of herself). Megan suggests some of her top current reads: Becoming by Michelle Obama and Authenticity Principle by Ritu Bhasin. She also shared with me that she just finished The Collective Wisdom of High-Performing Women edited by long-time donor and WCH Foundation champion Colleen Moorehead and loved it.
I truly think that the change we need to champion women in our sector won’t happen unless we share our stories, come together, and advocate for change. Please reach out to me to share your story of balance (or blend) and ideas of how we can navigate some much-needed change in our sector.
Stay tuned for the next blog post, which will highlight CEO & Chief Happiness Officer of the Medalist Group, Maryann Kerr. Not only will Maryann share her insight about how to navigate balance, but I’m sure she will share some incredible points about the key role organizational leadership must play in helping us all find balance.