Lean On and Lead, Mothering and Work in the 21st Century

“Maui author Shay Chan Hodges debuts her book Lean On and Lead, Mothering and Work in the 21st Century. WIT commends Ms. Chan Hodges for providing insightful research on balancing career and family.” 

Leslie Wilkins, Vice President, Maui Economic Development Board and Director, Women in Technology Project

Lean On and Lead, Mothering and Work in the 21st Century, an interactive Apple iBook written by Maui author Shay Chan Hodges, addresses personal, cultural, infrastructural, and legislative issues related to work and parenting, particularly for women in STEM careers.


Lean On and Lead includes first person narratives with Maui’s STEM Teacher of the Year Emily Haines-Swatek, Managing Director of Girls Who Code Dana Ledyard, Venture Capitalist and Engineer Sharon Wienbar, Pacific Biodiesel Vice President Kelly King, a young female engineer in Southern California, a Bay Area biotech scientist, and a San Diego biotech technical writer.  Interviewees present candid and personal portrayals of their work and personal lives, and what it takes for women to significantly participate in the 21st century economy, especially while raising children.

Because Lean On and Lead is an interactive iBook, stories are complemented by more than one hundred interactive widgets and links, including slideshows, interactive graphics, charts, audio and video interviews, current economic studies, and information on ongoing legislation.  Several of the short videos present footage of women in the biotech industry discussing wage equity, age discrimination, the unique history of biotech that supported women in the 80s and 90s, and other professional issues.

Sample interviews:

“I never considered reducing work after my kids were born, as I loved my job and also was the main earner at home. I did focus on being able to nurse both girls until they were at least six months old, and thankfully, I was able to take four months leave with both girls. I then planned my days very carefully so that when I returned to work I could continue nursing, though that also involved pumping.   I also took my husband and older daughter on business travel with me after I returned to work.”

“…When it comes to participating in the workforce and making a contribution, women in particular need to get a running start.  I mentor young women and always encourage them to push hard early in their careers, so that if they choose to take a break, whenever that is, they have made it clear to those they work with that they are indispensable.  The longer they are able to pursue their careers aggressively, the better their options will be later on…I think the big question that anyone trying to balance work and family life has to answer for him or herself is:  how do I contribute at a high level and raise a family in accordance with my value system?”

—Sharon Wienbar, Managing Director and Partner, Scale Venture Partners, 2013  “Always On Power Players in Digital Media Winner”, Huffington Post ‘s “Top 25 Women in Tech to Follow on Twitter”

“In one of the last classes in my MBA program, a public speaking class, I was tasked with telling a ‘who am I’ story.  I remember sitting at home struggling to get started and staring at the coffee table that was covered with baby shower gifts mixed with business school cases and the Steve Jobs biography.  That coffee table felt like the perfect illustration of being pulled in two directions.  At eight months pregnant, I was both hugely excited about becoming a mother but also passionate about launching my post-MBA career and exploring the high tech world in the Bay Area.”

“[Once I had my baby,] I was also committed to breastfeeding, which meant toting my breast pump all over Silicon Valley and trying to time the drive and interview with my pumping needs. Once I arrived at the interview, if there wasn’t enough time to find a bathroom, then pump, get back to my truck to store the milk, and then back inside in time for the interview to start, I would find myself pumping in the backseat of the truck or in the handicapped stall of a major tech company…[P]art of my commitment to supporting young women learning to code relates to the opportunities that computer fields offer women to work from home and to work at the level that they want, but in a high-paying field.”

–Dana Ledyard, Managing Director, Girls Who Code

“I really enjoy my job and working with the kids. I now work about forty hours each week. Before my son was born, I worked closer to sixty — without extra pay…My husband can leave his job on Friday and go back Monday, without bringing his work home. I think my work is more of a calling for me so I want to do things like take the kids to robotics tournaments on a Saturday — and I’m glad that it is really meaningful to me. And it is important to me to feel like I’m making a difference. One year, two of my  female students got full scholarships to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock…It’s always hard, though, for Maui kids to go to the mainland to go to school…It’s a big change, geographically and culturally, and then on top of that, they had the additional challenges that women in math and science face. I ended up communicating with both of them a lot for the four years they were going to school — and counseling them to basically hang in there. And they did, both graduating with degrees in information science…[O]ne who was ambivalent about Arkansas ended up settling there and getting a job in her field and plans to go back to graduate school.  And the other just recently got hired as a programmer here on Maui…It feels really good to be a part of that.”

— Emily Swatek, Teacher and Career Technology Coordinator

Lean On and Lead includes a total of twenty-four interviews with working women, mothers, and fathers, including Hawaii’s own Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, and Senator Brian Schatz.  In addition to women working in STEM and elected representatives, Lean On and Lead includes stories from mothers representing a wide variety of occupations, including medical and health care professionals, media executives, educators from middle school through college, and a student/entrepreneur.  Lean On and Lead also includes stories from fathers.

Please note that because Lean On and Lead is in the Apple interactive format, readers can only access the features described above with an iPad or a Mac computer that has been upgraded to OS X Mavericks software. Click the Apple iBooks icon below to view a free 15-page sample of the book or download the full publication.