Women Driven to Success: Yes, you CAN have it all!
Women are doing dishes, diapers and million dollar deals. I’ve interviewed fifteen fabulous successful senior level women for my next two books, Roadmap to Success with Deepak Chopra and Ken Blanchard and Women Driven to Success: Everything to Everybody. These women come from all walks of life: privileged and poor, city, suburban and rural; functional and dysfunctional families; and traditional and nontraditional parental roles. They are CEOs, Vice-Presidents, and Directors in companies, Law firm and CPA firm Partners, Entrepreneurs and a Two-Star General. These women have created strategies that have allowed them to live their lives with intention. Yes, insidious cultural barriers remain but they have chosen to remove the internal barriers that still hold many women back and leverage their opportunities. It doesn’t come easily but rather with overcoming the push-pull of women’s history of two-steps forward and one-step back. Is telling women that they can’t have it all, another one-step back?
Women, like these fifteen, have learned to stand in their own power, choosing to make things happen and having the impact they want on their careers, family and communities. They have chosen to “unlimit” themselves. (Credit goes to Gloria Feldt, author of no excuses for that term.) These women make no excuses, they just do it! (Thank you, Nike.)
How do they just do it? First and most important, these women are clear about whom they are at their center, their core, by identifying what is most important to them and defining what “having it all” means. They also understand that being clear requires choices and tradeoffs. As one of the women said, “You can have it all, just not everyday.”
Next, they create support systems that allow them to live these choices without sacrificing their health, sanity or success. They make their significant other…significant… by ignoring traditional gender roles. Instead, these women become effective strategic planners with their significant other by looking several weeks to a month out at family responsibilities and determine who can do what based on availability. (One woman I interviewed is the “breadwinner” and her husband is the stay-at-home Dad.) Technology has allowed these partners to sync up their calendars and get in touch with each other in case of last minute changes. One female CEO said, “When my young daughter wakes up in the middle of the night screaming ‘Mommy,’ I have convinced my husband that she means ‘parent of either sex’. Those women, without a significant other, rely on their network of neighbors and friends through mutual support as well as paid help.
These successful women continually reassess by asking themselves clarifying questions as they move from one stage of their lives to another. Many women begin their careers single and with a career focus. At the second stage, they may be beginning their families and questioning how they can bring their “whole self” to work. One choice is to opt out of corporate life and become an entrepreneur. This choice is not failure to have it all but a better way to integrate their multiple roles. (By the way, many Gen X and Millennial men are asking the same question about work/life balance. Both genders are beginning to force change in the Baby Boomer definition of a successful career. Since women are 50% of the workforce and growing as well as the impending retirement of the Baby Boomers, models of and roads to successful careers will change.)
As their careers progress, these women have learned the necessary skills to have it all according to their personal definition. These skills include the gracious “no,” negotiation and constructive confrontation. One global vice president of a Fortune 100 company, who is a single parent, negotiated no before or after hour meetings so she could meet the needs of her young son. Women need to move past what they were told as young girls, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” and apply the other message your mother told you,” It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”
So, don’t tell Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Laurie Ann Goldman, President and CEO of Spanx, or Joyce Bone, author of Millionaire Mom that they can’t have it all. More women need to follow the examples of these strong, self-sufficient women who have a clear internal compass based on their own definition of having it all. What will be your unique story?