Can women have it all?

June 27 , 2008

Once upon a time…

I attended the Facebook Girl Geek dinner held in San Francisco. My friend Holly Liu was a panelist and I wanted to cheer her on. The event was a mixture of developers, designers, and business women. It so happened it was the same night as the DC Design Babe’s first event on the other coast of the USA.

Standing there listening to women talk about their experiences I wondered, “Can I have it all? Do men wonder this or is it just women?” What I mean by “have it all”, for me someone to share my life with, a career that I love and a kid I can dress up in super hero costumes.

I’ve attended conference sessions and plenty of conversations about men vs women. The unfortunate thing is most of us don’t have a huge amount of time to mentor or be mentored. I want a mentor, maybe even examples of who to be like or not to regardless of gender but it does help for certain things if the person I listen to is a woman. Why? Well, men don’t deal with giving birth (sorry well maybe that one guy who had the sex change and landed on Oprah) but for the vast majority of you, you can’t. I need my girlfriends for that advice. The advice for what to do when they aren’t in conversations because they can’t bond with other guys the way guys vs guys do. It’s different. We just gravitate to what we’re comfortable with.

A few moments later still thinking about where I wanted to be in my career and life in general I got introduced to a woman that worked with Holly at AOL. She said she had seen me at a restaurant in Mt. View a couple weeks back but was too shy to introduce herself. She followed my flickr pictures. We joked about how she was stalking me and I told her it was silly for her not to say hi. She said I was famous at AOL. I’m not quite sure why but I was surprised and honored.

I’ve read up on people like Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon (she’s Asian and a high powered woman) and on the board at Apple. She’s on her second marriage. I wonder if that price of professional success has come at too high of a price for her or not? I wonder that for the male CEOs in power. If someone that works all the time can hold their family together when they don’t have the time to spend with the family they are trying to provide for. My parents worked all the time because they didn’t make much so they had to make ends meet, so maybe the answer is yes sometimes it does work out.

I’m trying to figure it out as I go along and maybe we’ll see if I can have it all… whatever I decide that to be. For right now I’m taking notes from the people I know like my friends Jared, Paula, Tara, Erica, Jenny and Jody. If you have suggestions let me know. :)

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 06.35 am

Cheryl

I think we definitely can have it all but our priorities shift over time…

I used to want to be the CEO and show everyone that a woman could do as well as and better than men.

Then as I got closer to it I realised I didn’t want that at all, I wanted enough money to be happy but not spend my entire life and career fighting and pushing and missing out on life around me.

I think I do have it all at the moment… I have enough time to hang out with the people I love, enough money to afford most things I want and a job that doesn’t make me want to kill myself every day. To me that is having it all.

I think if I still wanted what I used to (the high powered job) then I would be struggling with my personal life and something would have to give.

I think everyone, men and women both, reach this conclusion. Yeah there are some high powered men that have families etc but I bet they’re not half as happy as guys lower down on the career ladder that actually get time to go out with their friends, spend time with their families and build relationships.

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 07.00 am

Sulcalibur

I was going to have a huge rant about men and women and equal rights, but I feel ill and rough, just woke up and I’m getting the kids ready for school so I’ll resist (for now).

I will say however, I don’t see differences in colour or race but I do see differences and places for people when it comes to gender. I’m old fashioned I guess. But it all comes down to respect at the end of the day.

Also, please, as a father, don’t play the “men can’t give birth” card. It really annoys me. It’s the literally the only thing that we can’t do (along with breast feeding).

It’s not that we can’t be bothered, or choose not to.

Remember, I’m tired and ill so even though this makes sense to me now, it might not later.

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 07.45 am

Rachel Andrew

As long as I’ve been in this career I’ve also been a mother - in fact I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do had I not become a mother (I’d be still climbing ladders in a theatre somewhere most likely). I can’t ‘have it all’ in terms of going to all the conferences, all the events etc. I have to get my daughter to school, be there for her after school, enable the things she wants to do. However I’m pretty lucky I think. I get to run a successful business, do interesting things work-wise every day and be around for my daughter.

Perhaps I’d be more successful career-wise if I was racing around the world to all the conferences, able to make more of a name for myself that way. Perhaps. Would I be any happier because of it? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m really lucky to have the things I do have in my life, and to be able to earn a decent living doing something I enjoy while bringing up my daughter. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d be doing what I do now when I found myself pregnant at 21 with no formal qualifications or way to earn money outside of the theatre!

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 12.17 pm

Chris G

Let me give you a man’s take on this if I may.

Being a CEO or big time in your field these days takes a tremendous amount of work, stress and just pure time.  People want you in all directions at all times.  The times are a changin’ bigtime. If you do want to be that successful in your career, your personal life will suffer..be that marriage, not having children, losing friends, etc. 

I’ve worked in design positions at a few large corporate companies (one that was about 90% women in high places) and have watched women climb to the top and figure out when they get there its not that cool.  I’ve also seen many people lose relationships…divorce…kids in daycare…etc.  They finally hit a breaking point a say “f-this, I’m going out on my own”.  This happens in a man’s world as well (me included).  Then..but only then they are able to find the balance…of career, relationship, family.

I don’t really think this is a gender issue, but more of a society issue right now, but it seems to fixing itself up with more people going out on their own/working from home.

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 01.24 pm

Dr Dzoe

I’ve always liked the line: You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once. 

In 2006, I traveled for two months out of the year.  There was no way I could have done that when my kids were young - it would have been unfair to them, to my wife, and to me.  But by 2006, with two in college and one in high school, I had that opportunity.

Similarly, I’m having a grand old time working at a start-up now.  But I could not have had the energy and time to commit to the work when reading bedtime stories every night was a crucial part of my daily agenda.

I loved those years, and I’m enjoying these ones.  But I don’t think I could have done justice to both at the same time.

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Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 01.31 pm

urban mermaid

Cindy, this is very timely for me. No, it’s not possible to have a family and work life where you do everything well. As you know, I have 2 kids, and am VP here at a tech company. If I am working hard, there’s very little time for my family. Case in point, this week I’ve come home and worked 4 - 6 hours several nights this week, meaning that my children have had to entertain themselves. The flip side is that I often get seen as “not serious” about my work because I leave early or come in late so that kids can go to school or whatever.
There are always sacrifices. I don’t know that it’s a men vs. women thing - there’s definitely still not complete gender parity. Most of the other execs seem to have stay at home wives, so they can stay late or do what needs to be done without compromise. 
You have to make choices about what is most important to you every day. Is it more important to get xyz done at work or read your child a story goodnight? Or spend time with your significant other?
Good luck with making those choices for yourself!

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Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08.17 am

Sulcalibur

Dr Dzoe & Chris G - I have to agree with you both completely.

I really do agree with you on the You can have it all, just not at once.

Also, ‘having it all’ is relative. Like one person might want ‘X, Y and Z’ but the another may only want ‘X’.

I recently quit a secure job, and my wife and I just had our 4th child. Also I am the only earner in the house. The stress and responsability is huge and harsh on me. I’ve had to blow of lunches with people like Andy Clarke due to commitments and other stuff. It’s just the way it goes.

I always put the family first. I work to support my family, I just happen to like the work that I’m doing. So to be honest, I think I DO have it all, I’m living the dream, and I’m happy.

Best thing is, I know better things are round the corner too. Maybe I’m happy having it all in small doses rather than having it all at once in a quick rush.

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Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 12.49 pm

RatsOnParade

Dr Dzoe is spot on - you can’t expect to be able to do everything and have everything all at once - there just aren’t enough hours in the day. You have decide what’s most important to you right now, and be okay with the fact that your choice will come at a cost (to your career, to your family, etc.).

There’s a great book by Robin Wolaner that addresses many of these same issues: “Naked in the Boardroom: A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Transform Your Career.” Wolaner rose to the top to become CEO of Sunset Publishing, she founded Parenting magazine, and launched Vibe and Martha Stewart Living. It’s a great real-life tale of how a woman can make it to the top - and the sacrifices that sort of career path requires.

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Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05.23 pm

Cindy

RatsonParade: thanks I’ll have to order that book. :)

Dr Z,Chris, Cheryl & Carla,and Rachel:
Thanks for all the comments its been really interesting all your points.

Carla and I’ve spoken about what its like being so far from relatives. I live in SF and the majority of my family is in FL. Its not as easy to pop over for a weekend now that I have to cross time zones. I’ve started freelancing this past year and I am trying to make goals and visualize what I want. :)

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Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10.03 pm

Erica

Favorite Book Recommendations:

1.  Change The Way You See Everything Through Asset Based Thinking - they also have a new book called - Change The Way You See Yourself Through Asset Based Thinking.  Find out more at: http://assetbasedthinking.com/

2.  Sophie’s World - The History of Philosophy written as a Mystery Novel - Brilliant - Great Way to Delve into Philosophy and start thinking about the big questions in your life.

Cindy please consider coming to Houston for our Comfort Food Club on July 10th - we’re going to be discussing Greatness vs. Love - Can we have both? 

HUGS!  Much Love ;)

-E

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