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Can Women Balance Married Life and Work?

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Instead of the tips and usual advice on the topic of work-life balance, let’s take a look at how work can balance with married life.

Depending on the age at which a woman marries, she is in one of the following stages in her career, which will likely determine her perception of whether she can balance work and home life.

Women in their 20s tend to believe that gender issues and problems are obsolete. They are super educated, super ambitious and they are going to do and have it all. They are the doers, the hard workers with intelligence and discipline and super productivity, mimicking how they excelled in college. They also may believe that their company is on track with equality between men and women in their workplace and these differences are solved, thereby allowing ideal work-life balance.

These women may not have married yet. They may have been identified early for high positions, even international travel-related jobs. Their mentors advise them to move fast and furious, and they do.

These women may have reached a bit of culture shock…suddenly. They find themselves delaying personal choices, but still, they’re getting married and having a child. Their company is giving them big jobs with lots of mobility and the same international travel. These women go beyond basic performance. As a result, their company wants them for projects, new ideas to drive innovation, motivation to lead more staff and build coalitions. 

Except now, these women need parental leave and sabbaticals, with a promise to return to their high positions within the company. But wait. Is their company flexible? 

Their mentors advise them to be flexible.

Now the women have children in school so they can ramp up at work. They are able to breathe again and they’re ready for growth at work. But now, the other person who didn’t have a home life to balance was promoted instead. Those new leaders have been picked and have gained significant responsibility over large teams. 

Does the woman leave the company and start her own business now? Does her company feel like she fell off the high position job list and simply can’t get back on the track? The career train only passes by once. As a result, she doesn’t have the key experience that the other person has? 

Is this when the company looks around and says, “Where have all the women gone?” because they didn’t know how to allow the women to balance work and home?

Women in their 50s feel that they are in their best self-actualized career years. At least the women that are left in the company do. Think of high-achievement women such as Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, or Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Company. 

And think of companies who at this point, seemingly look around and lament, “Oh no, this doesn’t look good. Where did all the women go? Can we find one for our executive team?” 

Or did the company realize early on how important it is to promote balanced leadership and create role models such as Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, to visibly balance the top with gender-
neutral style?

To quote Trish Lawrence, a diversity and inclusion specialist in the United Kingdom, “The majority of workplaces are designed around a mid-20th century lifestyle, with an outdated approach to where, when and how work happens.” And women aren’t the only ones who need work-life balance. 

Men are looking for flexibility and non-linear careers too. The worker of today has little interest in a straight-line unbroken career path like their parents. They want flexibility.

Recognizing women’s career cycles will go a long way toward a more balanced life. Those traditional models with their standardized career cycles simply need to disappear. 

Retaining women in the workplace and giving them a true sense of belonging and worth requires companies to embrace and proactively manage women’s work-life cycles: single in their 20s, kids in their 30s, and work in their 40s. 

Human resource departments should sketch out specific policies to improve ways to approach women’s careers. And successful long-term retention of talent in companies requires a genuine appreciation of what women bring to the table and requires crafting policies that guarantee these differences are optimized. An example is increasing the age limit for identifying potential leaders, which would allow women family time. 

After all, the loss of women at each decade within a company means fewer women to choose later, and that is a problem no company can afford to ignore now, especially with the shortage of
qualified workers.

Can a woman have it all? The answer is a resounding yes, if all parties take the necessary steps.

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