Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic in 2012 presented a strong argument why women can’t have it all. Her article resonated with many professional women who were frustrated and exhausted from trying to “balance” a full time career with family demands; women who bought into the myth of work-life balance and were killing themselves trying to find some equilibrium.
It seems that women are now shedding their superwoman capes and looking to a different definition of success. They no longer believe it’s possible to have a demanding career and raise a family or to do both without losing their sanity and well-being.
Recently Harvard Business School conducted a study on 650 recent MBA graduates, and found that women had no doubt they could “realistically attain” the same level of success as men, but they listed lower ideal positions.
“Women expect more stress, burden, conflicts, and difficult trade-offs to accompany high-level positions,” said Alison Wood Brooks, a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard.
“One explanation for why power stresses women out: They have less time in which to attain a greater number of goals. ‘Right now, it is likely that women have more goals in life because pursuing career and family goals simultaneously is a relatively new concept for women,’ added Brooks. In other words, women feel more inclined to have it all than men, who listed fewer personal goals, and that means making compromises somewhere.”
I wanted to know more about how time contributes to our belief that we can’t have a fulfilling career and raise a family. Are we making assumptions that we can’t have it all? Is it true we don’t have time or is it that we don’t manage our time efficiently?
For the answers, I turned to Laura Vanderkam, author of I know How She Does It. Laura’s research for the book involved asking professional women with incomes over $100,000 to keep daily time logs in order to determine exactly how they spent their time.
Marcus: What was most surprising to the women who kept the daily time logs?
Vanderkam: I found that women were often pleasantly surprised at how much time they were spending with their families. Many had structured their work hours to maximize family time. They spent early mornings with their kids, then worked “split shifts” — leaving work at a reasonable time, spending evening with family, and doing more work after the kids went to bed. That way, they managed to work long hours while still maximizing family time. As one women told me, “I used to feel guilt. I don’t feel guilt anymore.” If she wanted to go to the gym some night, it was OK.
Marcus: What was most surprising to you?
Vanderkam: I’ve studied time use for a while, so I wasn’t that surprised, but I was heartened to see that the average workweek was 44 hours, and the average sleep per week was 54 hours (just a little bit under 8 hours per day). There are 168 hours in a week, so if you add those up, it leaves 70 hours for other things. It’s not surprising that people were able to have full personal and family lives in 70 hours per week — that’s the equivalent of 10 hours per day!