Does Work-Life Balance Exist for Career-Minded Women?

(can we stop asking women executives this question!)

Last month, I began a social experiment around female mentorship. Almost at a whim, I decided, we needed a group where women could easily talk about themes related to work, in a secure setting. I grew up in a household where my mom always had a job, and being financially independent was articulated as a requirement by both my parents. However, as I waded my way through engineering school, and later several workplaces, I noticed the number of women beginning to dwindle. In my 30s now, this was most certainly an issue.

Why is work-life balance still a women’s issue?

Often, it’s only female CEOs who are asked a question on work-life balance, as if they are the only ones who struggle with it. I wonder if it’s merely because journalists forget to ask other questions, or because two women stand out in a group of men, forcing a different question. After all, there are more CEOs named John in the US than women. Here are some stats:

Although, the share of women in an educational institute is over 50 percent, this doesn’t seem to translate to a workplace. Reports suggest that this isn’t necessarily because women are leaving work to take care of families. It’s also because men are favored for promotions at all levels ahead of women. Average John is more likely to get a promotion compared to ambitious (also called aggressive) Emily. Women of color face a significantly higher challenge. They’re often just invisible.

Women often outwork men in terms of household chores, which have always been underrepresented in the economy. This report about unpaid housework gets to the point easily:

Statistics from the 1996 Census of Population confirm that women continue to do the vast majority of unpaid housework and care-giving, whether or not they work for pay. As long as we exclude “women’s work” from public policy, women will be discriminated against and disadvantaged, individually and systemically. The invisibility of unpaid work results in the loss of access to social benefits as a work right. Gender equality issues such as women’s economic autonomy, linkages between paid and unpaid work, the wage gap, and pay equity will be placed in a broader analytical framework when unpaid work is integrated into the GDP. — Evelyn Drescher (via)

Progressive organizations are seeing work-life balance in an open way now. Childcare is no longer relegated to women-only domain. Despite this, we still need to talk about these issues for women, because there’s a lot of ground that needs to be covered.

Group discussion: Does Work-Life Balance Exist?

About 15 of us, met in a women’s co-working space in downtown Plymouth to discuss this topic. Our guest speaker, Zsanett Czifrus is a TEDx speaker, a Yoga teacher and an Operations Manager- all rolled into one. The community was diverse with women entrepreneurs, working moms and senior professionals.

It was disturbing (and often relatable) to realize almost every woman in the group had experienced some sort of guilt when trying to find balance. At work, they often felt guilty of not being present with the kids or their families. Even when not working at an office, women felt guilty of not contributing enough to the home. They often disregarded their contribution to home chores as minimal, when not working in a full-time job.

The glimmer of hope though, also came from the community. A couple of women shared their experiences of being in relationships where dads were the primary care providers for their kids. In the 21st century, we’re moving towards a fair split of work, and opportunities so that each person in the family is able to take up work they enjoy and can contribute towards without compromises.

This group discussion was facilitated by Brandanew and supported by Everdays and Pastel Plymouth. Anyone is able to join the group and further discussions HERE.

How to Think About Work-Life Balance Differently

Guest speaker Zsanett let the community write down pressing priorities for the week ahead as a task. Turned out, many women had priorities set for work or home, but nothing for their own self-care. Later, the speaker asked the audience to take off one thing from the to-do list and add a self-care priority instead.

She opined that after spending 8 hours at work and even 8 hours of sleep per day, we’re still left with 72 hours of time to invest in. When we state that we’re busy, it is also a choice. It usually means that we are not prioritizing the activity that we’re too busy for. Busyness is just a mask for not taking accountability for what we truly want to prioritize in our lives.

The community was left with some tips of how to aim for work-life balance, by first changing the way we define it.

  1. Work-life balance does not exist, what does exist is a balance in life that we want to maintain in our lives. Work is a part of our life, and not something that can be alienated.
  2. Prioritize each day based on what you like. Feel the freedom in accepting your priorities in life- those that bring you joy.
  3. Get that nap without guilt! Feelings of guilt are counter-productive. You have 72 hours per week even after 8 hours of sleep and a 40 hour work day. Everyone has the same time and what you do with it, should totally depend on you.

The community also reflected on what true balance really meant, without having to judge their own feelings…

“BALANCE 💃 is not static. It’s a constant work in progress. Holding and letting go. Each day and even multiple times a day. Life = Balance.”- Zsanett Czifrus, Everdays

Join the Discussion

All the new themes that we’ll discuss will be up on the mentorship group HERE. You can simply attend any event and join the discussion with the community.

Please hit ❤ if you like this story, so that we can reach more women as a part of this open mentorship community!