Being a woman in the workplace, I gobble up any information, printed, podcast, broadcast or discussed, that will help me find the right balance between being in the office and being at home. I’m among the first full generation that was a benefactor of the women’s movement in the 1970s. We grew up believing we could “bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never, never forget (he’s) the man.” And thus, the push for women to have the equality to choose a career while not giving up the ability of raising a family began and decades later we are debating what “it all” means and if it is actually possible.

Lately, there is even more discussion about work/life balance with Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, which encourages women to get a seat at the table. Her argument is women need to have a paradigm shift in how we see ourselves in the corporate world. Warren Buffet agrees as he stated in a recent interview, “Everybody should get a chance to live up to their potential. And women should not hold themselves back.”  The recent conversations help show our attitudes toward our place in business, which is as much a stumbling block to our success as is the corporate culture. This empowerment helps bolster our confidence as we negotiate salary, promotions, and positions within our industry.

In early May, NPR’s Renee Montagne spoke with Ann-Marie Slaughter about her recent article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” This article is viewed by some as controversial in a time when women are being prodded toward being more proactive in the workforce. Slaughter, a tenured professor at Princeton was the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department under Secretary Clinton. She commuted from D.C. to New Jersey every weekend in order to balance her career passions with being a wife and mother. In short time she came to realize that the tight schedule and demand of travel wouldn’t allow her the flexibility, or moreover, the satisfaction to have both a family and career. According to Princeton’s rules, she had to return to her position within two years to keep her tenure, which gave her the opportunity to return to the previous normalcy she’d had. Slaughter continues to work outside the home, but in a position that has some flexibility to be at home for dinner and attend her kids’ various activities.

I think it’s safe to argue that today there is an expectation of daughters to be equally educated and engaged in career pursuits as their brothers. While I grew up with Barbie being a girlfriend and wife with stylish clothes and fancy cars, girls today see her as a doctor, pilot, astronaut, chef, and marine biologist.  What caught my attention about Slaughter’s article is the honesty. In addition, Slaughter brings a frank discussion of life balance to the forefront of the conversation. She writes, “It is time for women in leadership positions to recognize that although we are still blazing trails and breaking ceilings, many of us are also reinforcing a falsehood: that “having it all” is, more than anything, a function of personal determination.” The misconception that women who are not in leadership roles or willing to sacrifice personal time for their career is a damaging concept to young women entering the workforce today.  Slaughter continues to write about the various myths that have been told to women, including finding the partner who’s willing to have equal parenting responsibility and finding the right time to start a family. She says there are many more factors of women’s success that need to be considered before our ability to have everything we want will be attained. Although we’ve come a long way baby, there still seems to be a great road ahead of us.

What do you think? How have you managed to have it all?

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