Will You Have It All?
The value behind ‘having it all’ for women is one of the most conceptualized aspirations that we, ever since we were little girls, have been in a race to accomplish. Ever since the times where we would clutch the fragile, unfortunate, make-shift baby toddler against our chest, and graciously pouring air for our tea member parties to accordingly sip and grant us their nod of approval. From times where we adopted the attitude of our primary school teacher and denounced the acts of Troy, our teddy bear class student, and in due manner, appropriately sentenced him to a time-off in the corner.
It is a concept so deeply ingrained within women, particularly in the workforce, not only because it’s so desirable but because it is approached with such apprehension and doubt. “Give it a rest, you can’t have it all,” “Just stick to being a mom,” “Your colleagues won’t even take you seriously.” It’s assertions like these that have long pestered most women to strictly choose between the life of dynamic tea parties with baby dolls, and the life of a successful, respected, and professional leader in the workforce that is capable of playing a disciplinary role. This was amongst the themes at this year’s Everywomen Tech forum in London, and gave rise to a number of profound discussions.
This sense of doubt and cynicism against this concept proved to be reflected itself in a number of inequality barriers within the workforce; including obstacles that are present from the very onset. The annually held Everywomen tech forum allowed Christian Chen, founder and CEO of Turing Talent, to speak on the matter of how gender discrimination persists even before women have the chance to prove themselves. She introduced the concept of gender bias in the application process, and how research shows that the use of certain terminology within job descriptions inadvertently discourages women to apply to the given position. For instance, the term ‘proven’ in contexts such as ‘Proven track record…’ is a principally masculine term that attracts more males than females. This discriminatory attitude is often further mirrored in matters where women are urged to omit the fact that they are a mother from their CV; an incident that a guest amongst the forum disclosed during a discussion. Disheartening urges like these are a reflection of the misperception of women in the task force, however it should not demoralize women. Rather, it should help us in narrowing down what we want in the future; do we want to work in a place where we are encouraged not to ‘have it all’? In an environment where the omission of such details grants us a seal of approval?
Though many dove deep into this topic during the forum, an opportunity that STEM students took to hear the words and advice of the successful leading women of today, it it is Lisa Sherwell, Transformation Vice President at SUSE, who echoed the enlightening words of Gregg Renfrew, the CEO of BeautyCounter. She asserts: “You can have it all, just not on the same day.” These words ring true to how the majority of women themselves perceive the notion of ‘having it all’, and these are the words that many should look to when the sense of discouragement from the unbearable pressures mount. Because “Having it all” only seems impossible through our desperate aim to balance personal life and work, yet whilst failing to grasp the fact that the true notion of balancing itself suggests stabilizing and finding an equilibrium between two separate entities. Rather, we take the term balance to signify that we must mix and jumble our personal and work-life together into one and try not to crash and burn.
Having it all doesn’t mean having to take on our chest-grasping toddler whilst simultaneously disciplining our pretend pupils. It means being able to prioritize each accordingly; this may suggest that you opt to prioritize only work-life before 5pm, or decide to block work-life interference during the weekend. It is decisions like these that help grow a steady time-frame schedule of prioritization, which in turn nourishes a healthy balance.
Ultimately, one of the greatest obstacles women face in attempting to lead the ideal life is our own mindset. We not only fear failure, but surrender to it the moment we come face-to-face with it. This surrender is in form merely because there was no preparation for it; the belief that once we decide to take the first steps into leading a successful, balanced life means no chance to fail is a belief that will hold women back even further. Through preparing to fail, and preparing for change, women can be equipped with the tools to handle the challenges that come their way and surge forward.
In the end, the question of ‘will you have it all?” substantially depends on how much you want to achieve it, and the environments you choose to be in. You will have it all, as long as you not only choose to understand that this climb to an effective balance brings failure and change along the way, but if you choose to cast the challenges and misgivings as the means to succeed as well. As Melissa Di Nato, CEO of Suse, contends: “Pressure makes diamonds, and I believe that.”