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June Blog: “I am not your Superwoman…. Balancing All the Demands and Saying No.”
Guest Blog Featuring: Sheila Burkett, Co-Founder and CEO of Spry Digital
As a businesswoman, president of our very own St. Louis Forum, community board leader and volunteer, mentor, wife and mother, Sheila Burkett could be easily described as a superwoman. Like many of us superwomen, Sheila has said “yes” to a lot over her career. Her journey has been grounded in knowing her superpowers and applying them expertly, and it is evolving into a balance of prioritization and self-care.
Know Your Superpowers
A technologist, strategist and business leader, Sheila is sought after to bring her superpowers to help community organizations. Her talent in discerning technology platforms, ability to organize and quickly gather information, lead database reviews and clean up CRMs, look at patterns, processes, and efficiencies, enables her to lean into non-profit leadership. But she also notes that “I’m not afraid to make a fundraising ask or provide strategy.” She is a visionary, looks at the bigger picture, and gives a leadership perspective.
"I also love helping to provide guidance to women in male-dominated fields and am used to being the unique person in the space,” Sheila says. She brings that perspective to mentoring programs, particularly in helping women start and succeed in careers in technology with organizations including Together Digital, Women Executives in IT, and National Council of Women in Information Technology (NWCIT). In addition, she teaches marketing and “websites as sales tools” for Greater St. Louis’ Diverse Business Accelerator and the Hispanic Chamber, serves as a judge for Arch Grants, and mentors women nationwide on building entrepreneurial careers.
But Sheila has learned that being able to find purpose in her business and her community-based work requires her to learn how to balance out the demands.
“I'm trying to stay true to causes and efforts that bring me joy and align with my values” she explains. “I’m trying to position myself to help shape policy for women, minorities, and social justice. The community I live in is very important and I’m a big believer in giving back.”
Personal wellness is critical to making those things happen. “For a long time, I have had the mindset that the only way to be successful is to do everything for others,” she says. “Now, I want the next phase of my life to also be about me and prioritizing my health. If I’m not healthy and taking care of myself, getting the sleep I need, I can’t take care of others. Also, my parents are at that age when I want to spend time with them and be helpful.”
Sheila notes that women have tended to teach helplessness to those in our care, taking on the tasks that they are unable or unwilling to do, and we are taught that this is the role that we must play. ““Women have been trained to not say no, not create conflict. We are the caretakers. But now I see that we (as women) have to take that back and be a little selfish I’m a naturally nurturing person. I’m not selfish by nature – I have had to learn that.”
Letting go of doing everything takes a lot of unwinding and breaking of societal training, she adds. “As the oldest of nine kids, I was always taking responsibility for being and doing my best. Lots of people over-commit because they feel responsibility. I’ve been trying to unpack this tendency by doing more leisure, letting things go.”
That can start at home, she recommends. “Raising three boys, I’ve always been the one doing everything for everyone, making sure that all the stuff gets done. As I’ve been working on not being the one in charge of everything, I have changed my relationships with people. Now I try to stay out of areas where I don’t have experience unless it’s a learning experience.”
A lot of us internalized roles that we were taught to play, but we can encourage changing that, at home and at work. “Fortunately, I think we’ve taught the younger generation not to play those roles as much.”
About Sheila Burkett
Sheila Burkett is the Founder and CEO at Spry Digital. Along with her current work at Spry Digital and as St. Louis Forum board president, Sheila is the Vice Chair for the Arts and Education Council board, a COCA board member and member of UM-St. Louis College of Business Leadership Council.