I read two really interesting articles this morning. The first article (here) is from McKinsey Insights, and it examines why it continues to be challenging for organizations to get a strong gender mix in the C-Suite. The piece identifies several casual factors, including (emphasis mine):
Performance models for work–life balance issues also tilt against women. Most men and women agree that a top-level career implies “anytime, anywhere” availability to work and that this imposes a particularly severe penalty on female managers. When asked whether having children is compatible with a top-level career for women, 62 percent of all respondents agree—but a much larger share (80 percent) think that’s true for men.
…So I’ve written before about the adversity that women face in trying to juggle work and family life in corporate America. At the time I pointed out that there are lots of causal reasons for these issues, and these are structural problems rooted at an institutional level. Ergo, the idea that the demands of a 24/7 career more adversely impact women because of the role society expects them to play in managing the home-front is not a new idea. This is not a matter easily addressed, however, and even when it eventually is it will not be done without impacting men. Someone in a family unit is going to be charged with managing it, and the way jobs are currently constructed penalizes that person in their career.
With this fact in mind I stumbled upon a second piece from total rewards thought leader Paul Hebert. In it, he examines if the idea of a 24/7 career really precludes one from having a rich and rewarding personal life. In the piece, Hebert notes that the idea of work/life balance – working from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and then retiring for the evening – is becoming a (short-lived) relic of the past for everyone. Of particular note, he went on to say (emphasis mine):
The price (the salary/benefits/freedom) of the job is directly connected to the amount of stuff you, as an employee, have to give up in order to have that job. The more of your life you give up – the higher the cost to your life and therefore the higher the price to the employer.
This is an interesting concept, and one that I think rings true to anyone experienced and successful enough to have climbed a few rungs on the career ladder. The takeaway here is that we have to find a way to marry our personal lives and careers together into one entity (Hebert points out that work/Life balance is a historical anomaly anyway.), and that great employers give their employees the tools and resources to do this in a palatable way.
…It would seem that if the demands of work aren’t going to let up, as a society we’re going to have to figure out ways of consolidating as opposed to compartmentalizing our lives. But – as many women pursuing high-powered careers can attest to – this is not something that employees can do alone. But what (practical) steps can employers take the mitigate the challenges faced by professionals trying to marry their personal and professional lives?
Share what your companies are doing in the comments section below.