Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Work-life balance: Is it possible?

The Wall Street Journal printed an article a while back in which Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, states that [there is] " such thing as work-life balance." Mr. Welch remarked that "We'd love to have more women moving up faster ...but they've got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one." "Taking time off for family...can offer a nice life," Mr. Welch said, "but the chances of going to the top on that part are smaller. That doesn't mean you can't have a nice career," he added.

Of course, for a lot of women, this is reason to stand up and prepare to fight! In response to these provocative remarks, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner responds "...We're tired of people bemoaning the presumed fact that work-life balance isn't possible..." This remark was followed by many others from women who either felt the same as Kristin or agreed with Jack Welch and backed up their assertions with experience and examples. The controversy continues but in the end, while most business women with families and social lives might agree that achieving this balance isn't easy, they would also suggest there is plenty that can be done to achieve it.

The delemma
If you spend more time at home, you may just miss out on that coveted promotion.
If you spend more time at work, you may miss out on a rewarding personal life.

How some women responded

The following remarks are from women who believe or do not believe that work-life balance is attainable:

Kate: (no)

Everyone would like to have it all, but the majority of us are not built for that….we have limitations. You can’t expect companies to accommodate our lifestyle choices when there are other single women who will work 10-12 hour days to do just as good or even better than those of us who choose to balance work with family.

Chris: (yes)

With so many women working, employers need to provide family-friendly policies like flexible work options and paid family leave which can simultaneously increase productivity, as well as attract and retain high quality employees.

Amalia: (no)

We cannot have it all. That is a lie furthered by the media. Trying to have a Work-life balance, that just bring chaos to our society. Women with children should stay home with them.

Jennifer: (yes)

I believe that you can have “it all” but it depends on what you want. It's mostly about finding the right job. It’s not about giving women all these extra perks, or making special compensations. It’s about making sense. It’s about not having to sacrifice ones family in order to get ahead. I’ve done it. It is possible.

SKL: (yes/no):

It depends on the field and the company. And also on how each woman defines “having a family.” Personally I would not have kids if I didn’t plan to be the primary person raising them. For me, that means being there for them during some significant part of almost every day.

Vera: (yes/no)

I personally knew that it would be difficult for me to climb to the top as a mother and a wife. That’s the reason I decided to leave and create my own wealth. I believe that through business ownership, investing, it’s possible to reach the top. Sky is the limit

How are you coping?
Our economy now depends on the millions of women who work outside the home, and the vast majority of these women are mothers. In fact, women now make up almost half of the workforce and obtain more than 50% of college degrees. How can we, as women, create balance in our lives?
Some tips from the Mayo clinic

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  1. Very thoughtful article. For a fresh take on building strong careers and families, check out Getting to 50/50 -- on how men and women share roles with all sorts of good results -- including a healthier sex life. The book also debunks some common myths that cause many moms to back away from their jobs. Authors Sharon Meers (a Goldman MD now in tech) and Joanna Strober (a private equity exec) share their often funny tales of combining work and family. Definitely a book worth checking out.

  2. Thanks for the books suggestion. It sounds like a good read. Appreciate the comments.

  3. I am stil trying to find balance in my life with all the hats I wear. Great article! Thanks.

  4. Melinda, You're not alone. Finding the right balance in one's life is a constant battle...and wearing a lot of hats can be a good thing, but requires a lot of juggling.