Kristen Cox urges women to courageously be themselves

Tiffany Turley
Kristen Cox shared her experiences to highlight the importance of individuality. (Tiffany Turley)

As part of the ongoing Women’s Leadership Lecture Series, Kristen Cox, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, visited BYU to talk about achieving happiness and balancing career and motherhood.

Women’s Services & Resources decided to host the Women’s Leadership Lectures after the office conducted a survey in March 2015 about what issues were important to the women on campus. The survey highlighted concerns about pursuing both career and family and concerns about women’s possibilities in fields which are traditionally dominated by men.

The Women’s Services & Resources Manager Tiffany Turley asked Cox to speak in the series because she thought Cox was a great example for women of achieving success and family despite great obstacles.

“Kristen just doesn’t put up with excuses. She basically tears right through them,” said Turley.  “She’s a great example of how to become a successful leader despite any obstacles you might face.”

Cox spoke about how she found happiness and success despite her challenge of blindness.

Cox lost her sight gradually, and she wasn’t always as forthcoming about being blind as she now is.  She would use her foldable cane only when desperate and then tuck it away in her bag and proceed blindly, using only her foot to test what was before her. That was until she fell into a manhole filled with ice water. She recalled her cold experience as an eye-opener.

“I had spent way too much of my life worrying about what other people thought of me,” Cox said.

She acknowledged that everyone is unique, and they all have something to offer. While she appreciates the contributions of homemakers, she said that making homemaking wasn’t her thing and that was okay.

“If you read the Book of Mormon, it does not say, ‘thou shalt love homemaking,'” Cox said.

Cox later issued a challenge to “get out of the boat.” Life is uncertain and scary, but until people take steps outside of their comfort zone, they can’t grow. When tasks seem daunting, like navigating an unfamiliar airport blind, Cox recommended “chunking it.” Break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces and then take steps.

Cox used her own experiences to encourage others to ask for help. People are often afraid to ask for help and thereby limit themselves, and Cox urged that they instead recognize that they cannot do everything on their own and that they are worth help.

“We all need something,” Cox said. “The question is do we think we’re worthy enough to ask for it.”

Her lecture then focused on balancing career and motherhood which requires careful decisions about priorities, according to Cox. For her, that means not having a perfectly clean house and one that’s only half-painted. She asked that people clarify their priorities and accept that there will be tradeoffs.

“I think women can have anything, but I don’t think they can everything,” said Cox. “Some things have to go.”

Cox’s young son Riley concluded the lecture for his mother. He explained that a woman could have both a successful career and family. The benefits of having a working mother ranged from behind-the-scenes access to the Capitol Building to his dad’s “actual good food.” To finish, he praised his mother.

“I love having an amazing mom that also has a career that she enjoys and allows her to grow,” Riley said.


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