Can women have it all? It’s a question that has fueled numerous debates during morning talk shows, on Internet comment boards and around water coolers.
When Anne Marie Slaughter’s controversial article was first published in The Atlantic in July 2012, it became a talked-about subject in the months ahead, even sparking counterpoint pieces in The New York Times.
Answering the question inspired a nuanced and in-depth discussion about the realities of work-life balance for today’s working women during Randstad’s Women Powering Business breakfast and panel discussion. At the recent event, a group of high-profile women leaders dissected the subject and discussed whether “having it all” really is a myth.
Balance Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
As Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Inc., Marilyn Midyette said she finds balance by defining the equation for herself – instead of other people’s expectations.
“I think balance is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s based on what your expectations are,” Midyette said during the discussion. “I’m really concerned about people feeling like they have to define balance based on anyone else’s definition. It’s got to be what works for you.”
Midyette tackles “having it all” in seasons. “In one quarter,” she said. “I may hunker down because I have some major initiatives that I need to get accomplished. In another quarter, it may be my kids are getting ready to go off to college and I want to be present for that.”
Navigate Around The Potholes
Having it all is possible, as long as women dispel the myth that work and life have to be equal parts all of the time, according to Patricia Falotico, an IBM executive. She shared a personal story of when she was caring for her sick father. “There were days when I had to be daughter first and executive second,” she said. “You can do it all — all that you choose to do — but you have to be able to navigate around the pot holes.”
Forget Balance, Consider Work-Life Integration
Emory University professor Dr. Pamela Scully said she tells her students to be more realistic about having it all. In her own life, Scully said, she is now focusing on new priorities now that her children are older – something she could have never done five years prior when she was “going to work and looking after my kids.”
“What I tell my students is, ‘I don’t think you can have it all – all at once, but maybe over the long haul in life you can.’ If you approach it as work-life integration, it’s much easier to think about.”