POWER 5 with Dr. Kaitlyn Goldsmith
Dr. Kaitlyn Goldsmith is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). She graduated with her Ph.D in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Brunswick in 2018. She completed her predoctoral residency in Clinical Health Psychology at the University of Manitoba, Max Rady College of Medicine in 2018. As a psychologist, she is committed to improving access to mental health resources within the Greater Vancouver region and beyond.
Who are your role models and mentors?
First and foremost, my mother. She is a psychologist with a successful private practice and has maintained her professional identity and business all while raising four children. I remember that as a child, I struggled with the fact that she was often not able to volunteer in class or attend PTA meetings with the other moms, because she was working. However, my feelings started to change in middle school when my mom came to career fair to talk about her work. I just remember being so proud of her and her accomplishments. As an adult, I am so inspired by her work ethic and she remains my biggest role model. I try to live by her favorite proverb: Love all, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
I completed my Ph.D in 2018, which is my greatest accomplishment thus far for many reasons. First, I am extremely proud of the work I put in for 10 years to achieve my doctorate degree. Second, I am proud of moving across the country, alone at 21, to attend university in a new city that I knew nothing about. The experience of being on my own was very empowering for me because it taught me that I can create a life for myself wherever I am. It pushed me to take steps out of comfort zone to meet new people, pursue hobbies, create friendships, and most importantly, it pushed me to be content and comfortable spending time alone. I was also able to explore different interests of mine such as yoga, traveling, and reading. In fact, during one of my years in grad school, I challenged myself to read my height in books which worked out to 68 books.
What would be your advice for women who are building their careers?
Stop and reflect upon your career path and make sure you are doing something that you enjoy. Are you pursuing something you enjoy? Is it meaningful to you? This may seem obvious, but too often, we jump from one step to the next, instead of making clear, intentional career moves. Importantly, I don’t think that the moves we make early on in our careers need to necessarily be education or job related. However, they do need to be intentional. One of my favorite books, “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Dr. Meg Jay discusses decision-making in your twenties, the decade during which many of our most important life and career decisions are often made. She talks about ‘identity capital’, which she describes as our collection of personal experiences, knowledge, and skills that we develop over time, in a broader sense than just career and school. The early career period is the ideal time of life to explore opportunities to develop identity capital. For example, travel, education, meeting people, navigating conflict, and developing work ethic. Build yourself through your experiences in a way that is intentional and that fuels your long term goals.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Women have a tendency to put others’ needs before their own. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can become dangerous when women consistently do this over many years and when they don’t do it intentionally. For example, not moving because you don’t want your parents to be lonely, not taking a job promotion because it involves doing long-distance with your partner for a period of time. These may seem like nice things to do (and sometimes they are necessary). However, making these types of decisions over and over can create bitterness and resentment, especially if you feel that you have sacrificed your life for other people. I would say that if you feel like you are doing things in your life out of obligation, these are important times to reflect on what you are doing and for whom and whether you feel empowered by the decision or not. I’m not saying that you can never compromise or sacrifice for others, but do so in a way that is balanced for you so that you don’t end up feeling like you gave up your life and goals and did not experience the life you wanted in return. Be the leader of your own life.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
I think a big challenge is social media. The popularity of social media has invited a culture of comparison. We compare ourselves to other people, especially other women. This comparison can create toxic insecurity and negativity. We really do need to remind ourselves that social media platforms really do showcase our highlight reels. There is always a life behind the scenes that is not so glamorous, we just don’t get to see it.
Any Last Words?
One last thing I didn’t mention is the importance of taking meaningful time to recharge and disconnect from everyday life. I truly believe that taking breaks makes people more productive. For example, I traveled to 30 countries on various academic breaks while I pursued my doctorate degree (which amounted to almost one full year of vacation time out of my six year stint in grad school). Traveling re-energized me for my academic work and I believe it made me more motivated and productive. I would encourage people to find something to do outside of work that makes you feel recharged and connected.