Maria Castañón Moats says it is possible for women to have it all. She is PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) first Latina chief diversity officer, and she knows how to make time for her family while climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. She says all it takes is learning how to juggle well.
“When I look at myself, I juggle a lot,” says the 43-year-old. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, because the more of us that learn how to juggle, the more leaders we’ll have at the top.”
Since Moats is an expert juggler with her super fast days, she was invited to speak last week at ALPFA’s 40th national convention, which drew thousands of Latino professionals to Las Vegas, where she hosted a discussion about mirroring leadership from the top.
“It’s fine to mirror the leaders above us and normal to find a role model to look like you, but I asked the audience to resist that,” says the woman with more than two decades of corporate experience. “There are many role models that aren’t necessarily Latinas.”
She advises emulating different types of role models, and then form your own leadership style. Moats says what has always worked for her without a doubt is taking risks.
“I think a lot of that I have to give credit to my own parents,” Moats says about her parents who immigrated to El Paso, Texas from Chihuahua, Mexico with only a 6th grade education. “They were never afraid to take risks, and in a way they instilled that in us.”
She says perhaps that is how she got the courage to leave her hometown right after graduating from The University of Texas at El Paso, in 1990, with a bachelor’s degree in office administration and concentration in accounting.
“Ten years later, I became a partner in the firm,” says Moats about PwC, only the second company she ever worked for. “I started traveling all over the world, and my world started getting bigger. You start to surround yourself with others, and you start to dream even bigger.”
As a leader, Moats says she feels a responsibility to be a role model to others.
“I encourage people to just go for it,” she says. “For me, opportunities have always come at misopportune times. When [I was asked] about the chief diversity officer position, I had a new baby…We agreed I could work at home on Fridays so that I could spend time not only with the baby, but also with my son.”
She says opportunities don’t always come at the right time, but you should always take them and negotiate what works for you. Moats, who lives in northern New Jersey and commutes to Manhattan, says she makes sure to have family time.
“I get into midtown at 7:30, but I catch the 4pm train to have dinner with the kids,” says Moats, whose husband is a stay-at-home dad to her 6-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter. “We go to the local diner to have dinner…That’s how I juggle. I don’t have time to make the dinner, but I have time to eat with them. I also use Skype a lot.”
She says sometimes as women, we suffer in silence. We have a lot going on, but we don’t tell anyone. She says if you don’t negotiate your needs with your employer, no one is going to help you.
“If you are talented, the organization doesn’t want you to leave,” says Moats. “Afterwards they will come up and say thank you.”
She says it is all possible if you just ask.
“Why not dream about being a partner, or a CEO?” Moats asks. “I think about my own children. I want them to take risks. I want them to believe that they can go to great schools here or abroad. I want to support them just like my parents supported me.”