"Stop Telling Women We Can’t"
Renee Weisman | Excelle
Recently an article was published in the NY Times arguing that the current labor market is punishing to mothers. As proof of their argument, they point out that the two women who just were appointed to the Supreme Court (and one who was nominated but withdrew) were never married. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE argued in an article in the Wall Street Journal that there was no such thing as work-life balance and women who want it that will never make it to CEO. Another Times article surveyed female students at Yale and concluded most planned to leave the workforce after having children.
The implication from these articles and other recent publications is that women can’t reach the top rungs of industry because we
a. take time off to raise a family
b. aren’t willing to make the sacrifices required to reach the corner office.
The path to CEO or Supreme Court Justice or any other position of prominence requires sacrifices, for men or women, but articles like these assume women aren’t willing to make them. Moreover, they reinforce the notion that businesses don’t need to adjust, women do. No wonder bright and capable working mothers are leaving industry and business, often to start their own companies where they are not held back by the prejudices of others.
Instead of rationalizing that the women are opting out because we choose to have families, perhaps we should instead consider how to help women with families find the opportunity to excel. And we should stop finding fault with women, or men, who work hard to achieve these goals.
Let’s look at some facts. Yes the two new females on the court are unmarried but… Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg had successful marriages and 5 children between them. Sandra Day O’Conner even took a 5 year leave of absence when her boys were young and still made it to the top.
Consider the CEO’s of the Fortune 500 companies. Yes, only 15 are women, but 85% of these women are married with children. It is possible to have a successful career and a family.
Much depends on the choices women and men make. But companies can help by creating an environment to keep their top women and nurture a pipeline of future female executives and leaders. I use the typically female verb nurture as opposed to establish, on purpose. Women naturally nurture and an environment that enables them to do so, both for their company and their home life will keep the pipeline healthy and full.