A special Q & A: Diane Paddison talks ‘Work Love Pray.’

img.feat.work.luv.pray.1You could say that Diane Paddison’s path to pro- fessional success began at 5.  As a child on her family’s farm in Oregon, she meticulously made boxes to store fruit, operated the cash register at the roadside fruit stand and managed the peach picking crews.  She would
later go on to college, become a wife and mother, earn an MBA from Harvard and serve in Chief Operating Officer roles in two Fortune 500 Commercial Real Estate companies. The most important lesson she learned through the process? Is that it’s possible to not com- promise family and faith for professional success. A message she’s eager to share with women who aim to do the same – through her book ‘Work, Love, Pray’ and her work through 4Word, her not for profit organiza- tion, designed to support professional Christian women in achieving their God-given potential without compromising their faith, family and values.

Her new book, a memoir centered around Paddison’s experiences, provides practical advice for single and married Christian professional women, covers a wide-range of topics ranging from work advice about how to trade on your strengths and find compatible work environments, to how to handle the sometimes sensitive situation of a wife earning more than her husband. In ‘Work, Pray, Love,’ Paddison shares heartfelt wisdom, personal experience and professional advice. “My life’s passion really is mentoring young pro- fessional women, she explains, “I know this has been my calling and I believe that God put me in a place to share my experiences by writing this book.” Paddison brings a balanced perspective to her book and candor about the disappointments she’s experienced in her personal and professional life, particularly in going through a divorce and leaving a company because she was asked to move to Denver, when she didn’t feel like the move was in the best interest of her family. “I think a lot of times we as Christians portray our- selves as perfect,” she states. “It really sets us up as being untouchable. When in fact we’re all touchable, we all make mistakes and we’re broken or have been broken at some point in our lives.”

“It was very important that I shared with readers my times of brokenness and trials,” she explains. “As believers, we were promised that in life we will have trials, and I felt strongly that for the reader to understand the realities of life, it was important for me to share those trials and how the obstacles were overcome.” While she encourages women to take charge, to have a career with the integrity and the balance they want, Paddison provides reality checks, especially when it comes to the expectation that work/life balance is a right and that it doesn’t need to be earned. “I tell everyone that you have to build a reputation and earn the respect of your organization… A lot of times that will take a few years,” she explains. “You’ll have to put in some long hours and make some sacrifices.” She adds that as you do, the organization will recognize your strengths and value – and do what it can to keep you. “My previous employer understood that I was going to provide great value and give them the very best,” she said. “And that I needed to be at a place where the company respected the priorities in my life. You have to put in the work first and pay your dues. The reputation that you’ve built will mean something over time and put you in a place to better negotiate your work/life needs.”

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Work Love Pray also addresses the delicate balance of a Christian woman sharing faith in the workplace while respecting the beliefs of others. Her simple advice: share your faith by your actions. “When it comes to your faith the way you live and behave speaks louder than the words you use and the number of crosses you wear,” she explains, as she references the words of St. Francis of Assisi’s, “preach the gospel at all times—if necessary use words.” She advises Christian professional women be a light just by doing what Jesus would do without saying a word. “I think that really works in the workplace. As you build relationships with others you’ll find others going through something and they will see how you have responded and loved others. They’ll come to you instead of someone else during those times because you have lived your life like Christ.”  The struggle for Christian
women to be accepted, nurtured and understood can also show up in an unlikely place— the church. Paddison says society is starting to get comfortable with young, successful career women but the church is still trying to figure out how to minister to the specific needs and understand the value that young Christian professional women can bring.

She shares the story about a church that was locked in a dispute with the City Zoning Board. The issue was turned over to the Chairman of the facilities committee (a retired science teacher), despite having three young women in the church who were attorneys— one with a firm that routinely resolved similar disputes for private citizens. “Women are typically the ones asked to bring a casserole to the meeting,” she said. “The church doesn’t understand the gifts of professional women and they are unintentionally driving them away because the church doesn’t use their gifts.” But Paddison notes that professional women shouldn’t run from church. They should stay the course and be in fellowship with one another and worship God—which is everyone’s purpose. According to
research, Paddison adds that 72 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are working full time. About 51 percent of American’s wealth is held by women. Over 50 percent of advanced degrees are going to women. It’s unlikely this trend will change.

To provide Christian professional women with a network of support to help them reach their God-given potential, Paddison speaks enthusiastically about her not-for-profit, 4Word, birthed through Work Pray Love. Paddison describes the organization as the beginning of a movement to narrow the gap in resources that every woman serious about her career, relationships and faith faces. “We connect women with local peers and mentors and offer support with relevant resources in six cities and are looking to grow and expand,” she said. Paddison adds that not everyone who joins the group and attends sessions is a strong believer. But as they build relationships with 4Word women, they often grow in their faith.  She speaks of one young professional who connected with the group through luncheons and eventually gave her life to Christ. She now leads the 4Word group in Los Angeles.  “Putting faith as your common ground, professionally and relationally, provides you with a community that you can’t find in your church and neighborhood,” she says. So what advice would Paddison give to mothers of young daughters to prepare them as future professionals who balance faith and relationships? She suggests, exposing them to environments where they become comfortable with public speaking.

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By the time they become working professionals, they will feel more at ease with speaking in front of others. Paddison also recommends that they participate on athletic teams or team activities where they can develop a better understanding of how to collaborate. Lastly, “Women should make sure that their daughters are participating
on teams that include men or boys,” she says. “The more comfor- table young women can feel being assertive, self-assured and speaking in front of and working with men, the more comfortable
and confident they’ll fill when they enter the workplace.”  Paddison cherishes the relationships that she’s formed throughout her per- sonal and professional career and continues to seek others who are excited about building a community of Christian professional women who love God, their careers and their families. “I really want people to believe that they can have a career, climb the corporate ladder and stay true to their faith and family convictions,” she said. “It isn’t going to be easy but if we keep God as the foundation throughout this experience there is nothing that we can’t do. I want every professional Christian woman to believe that.” For more information about 4Word, visit www.4wordwomen.org.

By Jennie Blizzard

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