Panelists learn from ‘PB&J problem’

‘Lean In’ book among inspirations for discussion at CU Women Succeeding
By Staff

By Andy Gilmore

Sometimes, a successful partnership is all about negotiating the most mundane tasks - like how to correctly prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The “PB&J problem,” described by panelist Jean Abbott, M.D., professor emerita of the School of Medicine, was one of the many personal lessons from a panel discussion at the 12th Annual CU Women Succeeding Professional Development Symposium on Feb. 28.

The “Lean-In” panel took its inspiration from Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s book of the same name. The book discusses how women can achieve goals, leadership and a successful career.

Folding or cutting?

The panel from CU – which also included Noelle M. Northcutt, M.D., assistant professor, internal medicine; Comilla Sasson, M.D., MS, assistant professor, emergency medicine; Carol Rumack, M.D., professor, radiology and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education; and Katy J. Brown, DO, a fellow in the Department of Medicine – moved away from the classic panel discussion format by encouraging audience participation.

The thinking behind this, Northcutt explained, was to have participants “to walk away with some personal development.”

Abbott, in introductory comments, focused on lessons learned from the “PB&J problem.” Her husband, she explained, insists on folding rather than cutting a sandwich.

That “drove me nuts,” she said. “It’s not the way you make a sandwich.”

“Perfection is the enemy”

She said she yearned to “stay in charge.” And yet, she knew a successful partnership is an equal partnership. She learned to let it go.

Brown built on Sheryl Sandberg’s claims that “perfection is the enemy” and “Superwoman is the adversary of the women's movement” by asking the room to discuss “the myth of doing it all.”

The consensus was that, often, just being able to finish a task – even to a lower standard that would usually be expected – is equal to perfection at that moment.

Attendees were encouraged to continue the discussion by going to

In other sessions at last week’s CU Women Succeeding:

  • Laura Borgelt, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, presented “The KEY for a Woman’s Success at Work,” in which she encouraged participants to identify their “truest self activity” and then consider ways of bringing that passion to work. For Borgelt, a past winner of the Gee Award, the activity is swimming: She shared stories, photos and videos from such achievements as swimming the English Channel, and how lessons from those experiences help her achieve success on the job.
  • Katherine Yelle, state organizer for the American Association of University Women, discussed the work of the national grassroots group in representing women and women’s issues. She highlighted the benefits of membership in the group, but also stressed that anyone interested can sign up to be an advocate and stay informed without formally joining.

- Jay Dedrick