Dana El Gammal: Mod Women in Business Q&A

We are so excited to have Dana El Gammal, CEO of InspireHealth, on our work/life balance panel this October. In preparation for the event, here is a little more about Dana.

How long have you been in Nashville? If you didn’t grow up here, what brought you to Nashville?

My husband and I moved to 12 South in Nashville from Chicago in November 2006. We wanted to move further south eventually, and Nashville was equidistant (6 hours) from my family in Illinois and my husband’s family in Georgia. That seemed like sound reasoning, until we had 3 children in 15 months and realized that we were too far away from either family for anyone to help. We love it here, though!

What are a few of your favorite things about Nashville?

The strong sense of community in Nashville is its best attribute, and something I’ve never experienced in any other city. With no family nearby to help, we were in the thick of it with a 15-month old toddler and twin newborns. But Nashville rallied, and our neighborhood organized for people to bring us dinner 3 nights a week for almost 4 months, even coordinating food drop-off and dirty dish pick-up in a cooler outside! It was such a loving gesture, and one that was life-giving to us at that time.

What do you think is the biggest issue challenging women in the workplace?

My biggest struggle as a working woman came after I was married, and outside the workplace! The stereotype that remains around domestic duties being the primary responsibility of women presents a huge challenge. In general, men are more present and engaged than in the previous generation, but for many working woman, there is still not an equal division of duties at home. There remains an expectation at the end of the day that most everything that happens in the home (or at school) is a woman’s responsibility.

What is the best piece of professional or personal advice you've been given by someone else?

The press release announcing my business venture with FranklinCovey dropped the morning I went into labor with my first son. It was a crazy busy time, full of opportunity. And even though I had no desire to stay at home, I felt a constant pull to be more present and available for my family. When my twins were ready to start kindergarten, I remembered my cousin, a senior executive at IBM, who pursued her career aggressively until her boys got to high school. She then retired to spend their last years at home together, only to realize they didn’t need her in the way she had dreamed. She lamented she wished she’d done the opposite, and spent their more formative and dependent younger years at home, pursuing her career again later when they were older and more autonomous. I recognize this is not a strategy for everyone, but for me it felt right to re-fashion my business and work in a way that allowed me the flexibility and time to be present for my family, even though it meant less revenue in the interim.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I think it’s harmony more than balance for me. I used to be very singularly-focused, but I couldn’t do that once I had children. I recognized I could no longer give 85% of my effort to one aspect of my life, and I tried earnestly to create ‘balance’. In the end, I realized it’s never equally balanced – some seasons in life require more time and effort at work, and some seasons more time and effort outside of work. As long as I consistently spend quality time on things that matter, even if it’s just for a few hours a week, I feel less guilt and stress when one aspect of life requires a little more from me.

What are a couple things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you?

1) Even though I founded a wellness company, I don’t really enjoy the tasks required to live a healthy lifestyle. I’d rather eat fries than salad, and I don’t long to work out, but health is a means to an end for me – I know I have more to give to those around me and I experience life more fully when I’m healthy.

2) Even though it’s integral to my career, I loathe public speaking.

Dana El Gammal is Founder and CEO of InspireHealth, a wellness company that empowers people to experience extraordinary lives through better health. She partnered with Dr. Stephen Covey to create The 7 Habits of Healthy People, based on the powerful principles of behavior change found in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Dana has an extensive background in many aspects of healthcare – working as VP of Operations for a publicly-held company, growing a successful multi-state PPO/TPA, directing disease management and clinical research for large provider organizations, as well as operating a medical device company. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Tarek, and 3 children.