March 8, 2016
Can women really have it all?
Today is International women’s day and to mark the theme of ‘Pledge for Parity’ we have asked Senior female executives who sit on the boards of FTSE 100 businesses and professional women is there a secret to having it all? If so what is it? These women give their honest and insightful opinions here:
Whilst I do not believe it is possible for any professional, whether male or female, to “have it all”, all of the time, I do believe it is possible for a woman to have both a very successful professional career and a very satisfying and rewarding personal life. However to achieve both, you have to be willing to be flexible, patient, make compromises (whilst not compromising your integrity), be prepared to make sacrifices on occasion and, most importantly, understand and prioritise what is most important to you at any particular time. Sometimes that sacrifice may relate to your career and sometimes it may relate to your personal life but it is important to understand that careers aren’t linear and they last a very long time – it’s ok at times in your career to focus on personal issues and it’s also necessary at other times to focus almost exclusively on your career. Just don’t lose sight of what your objectives and motivations are, understand why you are making sacrifices and remain positive.
Partner at a City law firm
There are so many images on social media celebrating women who look good, train hard, have successful careers, great relationships and are brilliant mothers. I think women feel pressurised to be superwomen and it’s just not realistic. What counts is knowing what it means to you to have it all. Once you understand what makes you tick, what makes you happy and what you are here to do, your life will be directed by those things. Take time to love and accept yourself for the amazing person that you are and to realise that it’s not worth sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of someone else’s ideals. Once you give yourself that gift, having it all will become second nature.
Legal and Insurance Professional
If there was a secret I would gladly share it with you but I’m afraid there’s no magic formula – you have to work out what it is you want, what you are prepared to do to get it, and what balance (if any) you want in your life. I grew up in a council flat but I now sit on a Board of Directors with some amazing, intelligent and decent people who all went to boarding school and grew up with great privilege. How did I get there? Sheer determination, lots and lots of hard work, a desire to learn all the time and some personal sacrifices. By determination I don’t mean self-promotion, being political in my allegiances and demanding recognition – I have never asked for a promotion or a pay rise in my life. But if you find the right employer and you work hard you can shine bright. But first I need to tell you what “having it all” means for me. It means having a job that I love, getting paid well, but having enough time for my family. I am in such a privileged position today that we can afford for my husband to stay home and be a house husband and that makes my life SO much easier – I can concentrate on work, leave early in the morning without worrying about the school run, and I come home to clean clothes and a lovely cooked meal! But it hasn’t always been such a charmed existence. I worked throughout university and it was my work experience that got me my first job rather than anything I had learned (though having a degree got my CV through the filtering process). Once at work I studied for a professional qualification, in my own time, and I didn’t give up when it got difficult and I failed a couple of papers. When I was blessed with my pregnancy I worked until the day before my due date. I worked a bit through my maternity leave and went back full time when my son was just 3 months old. I cried every day of the last two weeks of my maternity leave but for financial reasons I had to go back to work full-time and I decided to start early so that my son knew no different. It worked really well for us because his nursery (plus help from family) contributed to him blossoming into a polite and caring boy with good manners and a natural inclination to share. My dedication to my job was rewarded a couple of years later when I was asked to join the main board and I continue to work hard but have some personal rules that help me to feel balance. While I start in the office early I nearly always run home at 5.30pm and enjoy an evening meal and cuddles on the sofa with my family. I make time for exercise and I treat myself to nice work clothes. Not everyone would want to do what I have done and I don’t blame them. The truth is you have to work out what you want for yourself and what you need to do to get it. Embrace the diversity of the workforce around you (for me that’s posh people) and never stop learning. If you try to be someone you’re not you will fail. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, find something that suits you and be happy in the day you’re in now. You will never reach a stage of perfection but you can enjoy the progress. Oh, and marry someone that’s “man enough” to be a house husband!
Senior Executive in Insurance
I think that women are born as natural multi-taskers and therefore have the ability to balance many situations in their lives at one time. As a professional woman and mother of two, being extremely organised both at work and home would have to be top of my agenda on a daily basis and the key to success on having a good work/life balance. It also helps to have great support in both these areas and to keep the door of communication always open!