The juggling act for women to balance work, family life

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How do women juggle professional careers, family life and rewarding hobbies? It’s a question that continues to plague many working women, no matter their industry.

According to a report from the Harvard Business Review, fewer women are opting out of careers to raise families, and those who do, do so reluctantly. As the study noted, “the majority of those women left reluctantly, finding they’d been passed over for high-profile projects, offered less fulfilling work, or, as one respondent called it, ‘mommy-tracked.’ Others point to the lack of professional part-time positions available.”

Grabbing opportunities frequently depends on frantic rescheduling. Bulgarian opera singer Sonya Yoncheva, for instance, accepted many last-minute substitution requests over the years, including a ninth-hour request from the Metropolitan Opera to fill in for an ailing soprano five weeks after giving birth to her first child. The result? Yoncheva been cast in the central role of Desdemona at the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious opening-night gala of Othello in 2015.

That juggling can come at a cost. The Harvard Business Review study noted that men were more satisfied than women in four areas: meaningful work, professional accomplishments, opportunities for career growth, and compatibility of work and personal life. The study also stated that “women who believed their careers would be equal in importance to their partners’, as well as believed a more equal division of labor for child care responsibilities, had their expectations dashed on both fronts.”

One area where expectations are rising is Canadian business, with many companies actively looking to recruit more female members to their boards. The Globe and Mail recently reported that women account for 7.8 percent of directors in energy companies listed in the S&P/TSX composite index. But women are joining boards at a rapid rate, as more companies are seeing the benefits of gender parity in their workplaces.

Maggie Fox, the SVP of Digital Marketing for giant SAP, notes that “if you’re in a roomful of men and you’re the only woman, that’s an advantage. You’re different, you stand out. Your perspective is different. Recognize it for what it is: another weapon in your arsenal.” She does acknowledge the importance of diversity within companies as an asset every firm should prioritize.

“We need to recognize companies that are more diverse perform better,” she says. “It is a proven fact. Study after study shows the more diverse your board, the more diverse your management team — the better the performance over the long-term. So it just makes business sense.”(Disclosure:SAP is a corporate sponsor of B2B News Network)

New York-based freelance writer Julie Schwietert Collazo thinks there’s a reason companies haven’t diversified. “Put coarsely, like tends to look for like. Until you have people who are different from you in your orbit, it may not occur to you to look for them, much less recruit and hire them.”

She adds that many women have a tendency to downplay their accomplishments. “Over the summer, I became part of a large group of writers and editors, many of whom were wildly accomplished and incredibly capable. […] So many of them talked about their fears and anxieties in going after bigger fish, whatever the “fish” was for each one of them. And, in a way, I felt incredibly sad about this. I wanted to say, and tried to, in supportive ways, “Stop apologizing! Own your space!””

Flickr photo via user Bob Mical

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