24 Seven Chairwoman Celeste Gudas, who founded our company in 2000, is a distinguished entrepreneur and recruiting industry innovator – as well as a dedicated mom of three.
Central to Celeste’s management philosophy has always been the empowerment of 24 Seven's employees, many of whom are women, with ongoing financial and professional growth opportunities. She is an active member of the Women Presidents Organization and Platinum Chapter, as well as many other leadership and staffing organizations. Celeste is a passionate advocate for expanding workplace diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and is a sought-after speaker and member of organizations spearheading DEI initiatives.
We spoke to Celeste about how to successfully manage the critical roles of corporate leader and mother.
As a C-Suite leader at 24 Seven, how have you managed both motherhood and continued business growth?
Balancing motherhood and work is really challenging. I had three children under 3 years of age (a set of twins and a singleton) when 24 Seven was only a year old and experiencing very rapid growth. I like the term blending more than balancing, as it speaks more accurately to me about real-life parenting. Also, while I do think you need to work efficiently, it’s important to get comfortable with outsourcing activities, including childcare.
But the most important thing is being fully present in whatever you are doing. And remember, no matter what, stop feeling guilty about your career as a working parent. You are setting a great example for your kids!
Also, as a mom, your time is limited so prioritization is key. You really learn to pick your battles, which I think has translated into the business. You realize what's important and what's not.
How does the culture at 24 Seven ensure work-life balance for working mothers managing both career and parenting responsibilities?
The majority of employees currently at 24 Seven are women, and this has been true from its inception. In a way, we created a “bubble” of equality within 24 Seven, with women earning salaries on a par with men, allowing many of the women to be the primary breadwinners in their families. In addition to some of the standard benefits of paid maternity and paternity leave, many of our managers are indeed women (and moms), and we offer great empathy and flexible scheduling to the parents on their teams. Some of this family-friendly sentiment is subtle and is really baked into our culture, and watching all the children of 24 Seven grow up has been fun for me to watch and experience.
How do you feel you’ve paved the way for other female leaders in the industry?
I really followed my passion for helping people find work. That passion led to 24 Seven becoming the company it is today. The great thing about the staffing industry is that it is comprised of companies of all sizes. While the largest players are still predominantly male in the executive suites, there are many successful women running smaller and midsize firms throughout the U.S.
What qualities do you feel help make up a successful female leader?
I think women bring amazing qualities to leadership. I find that women often lead more from the center than a strict hierarchical top-down setup. I think women are also terrific at consensus-building and are strong communicators with strong emotional IQ. But maybe most important of all, I find women to be visionary, they can see beyond the “today” and what’s possible for tomorrow.
What advice would you give to new moms re-entering the workforce?
The first thing I would tell new working moms is – again – to drop the guilt. We all come into this with a tremendous amount of guilt. Ease up on yourself and understand you can have it all but it's going to be at different points in your life.
I became a mom and started 24 Seven kind of simultaneously so I felt like the Wizard of Oz as I was constantly manipulating schedules and making sure everyone was where they had to be, both at home and in the business. But that's part of being a working mom; it's a counterbalancing act. Be sensitive, but don't forget about yourself. I did that for years. I wasn't taking care of myself, but I later realized that needed to be one of my pillars.
As I mentioned, your time is limited so you really have to see the forest for the trees, decide what's important at that moment and make sure those things happen.
Is there a strong female leader, past or present, that inspires you most in your day-to-day? Why?
Well, there are so many notable women, but I am a big fan of Gloria Steinem. I became aware of her when I was at Smith College, also her alma mater. In fact, my sophomore year I lived in what was “her” dorm room, about 30 years earlier. I admire her story, and her bravery for having the courage to say out loud what many of us are often thinking. She is proud to be called a feminist because she defines feminism as “anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
What surprised you the most about being a mom and running a business?
I absolutely love being a mom and it's a totally life-changing experience. But I would never give up working. To me, working is important because my identity is so wrapped around 24 Seven. The choice was never in question. I love the fact 24 Seven is helping people at a critical time in their lives – finding a meaningful career.