ERIN CALLAN: I Want To Be A Cautionary Tale — Don’t ‘Lean In’ The Way I Did

erin callan

[credit provider=”Rock centre”]

Former Lehman Brothers CFO Erin Callan, who was one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, pretty much disappeared from the public eye after the bank’s demise. She resurfaced again this week with a really gutsy op-ed in the New York Times about the big work/life balance debate that’s has been reignited following Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, “Lean In.” 

The former “well-heeled” Wall Street exec did a big television interview with Ann Curry on “Rock centre” with Brian Williams that aired Friday night. 

Callan wanted to provide her own perspective on the who “Lean In” concept and use her experience as a “cautionary tale.” 

“I wanted to be a little bit of sort of a cautionary tale,” she said in an interview with Curry. “You can achieve. You can accomplish. You can have an amazing career with great success even in a male-dominated field like I did, but be careful what you wish for and the choices that you make.” 

She went on to explain that she leaned in really far on Wall Street and that wasn’t the best thing.

“I leaned in far, very far,” she said, adding, “Don’t do it like me. I don’t think the way I was doing it was the healthiest, happiest way to do it.” 

She explained that she was intense about the things she did in her life.  She grew up a competitive gymnast in Queens and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. 

Callan eventually worked her way up the ranks on Wall Street to become the first female CFO at Lehman.  

While on the Street, she said that she was constantly on her Blackberry, checking Asia markets before coming to bed and making herself completely available even if that meant hopping on a last minute flight to Europe for work. 

This, she said, became the “new normal” for her causing her to miss out on important events such as birthdays and relationships with friends and family. She also acknowledged that she wasn’t spending enough time with her first husband. 

Curry asked her if she realised what was happening. 

“I’m not sure I was consciously willing to admit it,” Callan responded.

 In her op-ed, one of the things Callan talked about is missing out on having children.

“I didn’t have children. But there was no conscious moment where I woke up and said I don’t think I want to have kids because it was important to me,” she said.

Now at age 47, Callan and her new husband, high school classmate/firefighter Anthony Montella, are trying with in vitro fertilization. 

So her takeaway for women is to “lean back if it feels right.” She basically said to lean in if that’s what feels right, but if you don’t that OK, too. 

“It’s up to you. It’s your choice. Follow your heart. Follow your passion. If you want to break the glass ceiling like I did, go for it.”

Callan does believe she could have gotten to the C-suite still with some changes or tweaks. 

“I really do believe there’s that extra hour…that extra thing that really is diminishing returns to your labour over time.” 

She said that applies to men and women. 

“The demands that it places on you. It’s hard to create boundaries with respect to those demands. I don’t think that’s a woman issue.” 

Despite what people may have concluded from her op-ed, Callan said that she has found love and peace in her new low key life in Florida.

“I don’t wake up everyday with the anxiety of doing the next big thing. I’m OK with who I am.”

Check her out now… 

erin callan

[credit provider=”Rock centre”]

erin callan

[credit provider=”Rock centre”]