On this International Women’s Day, I am once again in angst over the very very delicate topic of women finding a balance between career and family. I struggle every day as many of my peers I know do. In a recent interview with a leading Latin American CEO for a very timely report on women in senior leadership, I was able to articulate it out loud because of her frankness. She said – and I agree – that women carry more of the guilt of not being 100% focused on career or family, the guilt of always thinking you are missing something when you are at the other. I know I can’t be 100% when I want to do two very separate things to the best of my ability, I don’t want to give up either but I also don’t have a clone. Sound familiar?
I was heartened in writing the recent Forbes Insights / Grant Thornton study that showed that women are making headway to top spots in the corporate world globally. This even though many of the CEOs and C-Suite executives I interviewed said that they still see many women leaving mid-career to start families, and it is a challenge to bring these women back into the workforce. A weak pipeline of women moving up the ranks means that it will be difficult to crack today’s tally of 24% of women in senior leadership.
I’ve written more about the study on my Forbes blog; NYSE Euronext today hosted several conferences around the globe bringing women leaders together. Starting the conversation is important because from the numbers we can see what progress is or isn’t being made and know that we need to do more to harness the energy of half the global population.
Back in the 1930s, the Soviet state tried to do just that redefining gender roles. Richard Stites, a former professor of mine at Georgetown writes in Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revoltion that “women were promoted, put into technical schools, and afforded wide opportunities to enter and rise in economic life, to establish their own identity through personal earnings, and even to gain a certain sense of self-respect and public respect as well.” The 1932 poster says it all.
But where did the promise go then? And possibly today? Stites continues, “women were saddled with a triple burden: of wage earning in the economy, of principal responsibility for domestic work and child care, and of public or voluntary work. This stripped them of their ability to use economic opportunity to advance along paths to power equal to men.”
We can get our power back by education, talent management and flexible work options says the report I wrote. Let’s keep looking for more solutions.