Can Women Today "Have It All?"

Jul 9, 2012 | Uncategorized

Think about your life as a woman business owner. If you could “have it all” with work, family, friends and community, what would that life look like? Do you feel like you’re already there…or well on your way?

A recent article by Anne-Marie Slaughter that appeared in the July/August 2012 edition of Atlantic Magazine argued that women today still can’t have it all. Anne-Marie was appointed by President Obama to be the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department and is a professor at Princeton University. She told of being at the United Nations’ annual gathering of every foreign minister and head of state in the world, at a reception hosted by the President and Mrs. Obama, where all she could think of was her 14-year-old son back home who she felt she was growing apart from. She had the job she had always dreamed of, but was only able to travel home on weekends to be with her husband and two sons.

“A rude epiphany hit me soon after I got there,” she wrote. “When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible. I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career women: I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book. But I routinely got reactions from other women my age or older that ranged from disappointed (‘It’s such a pity that you had to leave Washington’) to condescending (‘I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great.’)”

What does it mean to have it all and do women business owners have a different approach?

We put the question out to our NAWBO® Facebook followers to see what they thought of the article that has been stirring up quite the media frenzy since it hit the Internet and newsstands. One woman business owner responded, “After reading this article, another question is: Whose definition of ‘all’ holds sway?” Another wrote, “My experience as a woman business owner was…I definitely did have a lot of goals become reality, but I also did it all! That was an issue…”

I’d like to argue that as business owners and entrepreneurs, we’re fortunate to have much greater a chance of defining what it means to “have it all” than your average woman—we can have rewarding, successful careers while still being fully present with our family, friends and community. After all, most business owners have more control over their schedules and most importantly, their finances. We can adjust our schedules most times when needed, which is helpful.  And as women business owners, it has been said that we are better multi-taskers than men (I’m told it’s been proven by scientific studies).

So maybe Anne-Marie does have it all…she just needs to redefine her definition. Once she took a more entrepreneurial path to have a different kind of work-life balance, she was able to address her issues at home and enjoy a meaningful career.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic…be sure to leave your comments here!

—Diane Tomb, NAWBO® President & CEO

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