Sheryl Sandberg definitely hit a nerve with her message that women should “Lean In” more to their careers and ambition. Her intentions seem good. She sees the inequalities in the workplace and the lack of women in leadership positions. And she wants to encourage women to go for it.
But, there are only so many hours in a day. And if a woman leans in more to her career, she is either adding more work to an already full plate or she is leaning out from the rest of her life.
Working Mothers Want to Work Less
Most working moms are exhausted and overwhelmed. They worry they aren’t doing enough at work or at home. And the majority of them don’t want to work more. They want to work less. According to a recent survey, 74% of working mothers work full-time. But, most would actually prefer to work part-time (Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends, 2009).
Single Women Still Want to Get Married
One of the unexpected consequences for women who follow a traditional male career path is that marriage and family don’t always just happen. Many women are discovering that they need to make a conscious shift to focus on their personal life, unless they want to stay single. This doesn’t mean abandoning their career or ambition. But it may mean investing in their personal life just like they have invested in their career.
Can Women Have it All?
Today, we are living longer and having smaller families. So, there is time for different seasons where family or career take priority. Women can have it all. But, trying to do it all — all at once can be overwhelming.
How Can We Support Women?
The first wave of the women’s movement was about gaining equality with men. Today’s feminism encourages us to value our uniqueness as women and to embrace our gender differences. This means supporting women in whatever work-family balance they choose.
And maybe we could take this a step further and lobby for more female-friendly and family-friendly workplace policies, such as telecommuting and job-sharing. A more flexible model could provide women opportunities for meaningful work that doesn’t require them to sacrifice their families, their relationships or themselves.