The pressures of motherhood, combined with the stress of a 40-plus-hour work week, leave female professionals questioning whether raising a family while attempting to climb the corporate ladder is worth it. With gender-equal education and increased empowerment, more women realize their potential by investing in their careers. According to The Huffington Post, 8.1 percent of Fortune 500 top earners are women, an increase from 6.2 percent in 2008. The fact that 39 percent of undergraduate Whitworth students in the School of Global Commerce and Management are female is further proof of the growing trend. However, the fast-paced corporate environment often makes it hard to balance raising children.
“Opting Out?”, a book by Pamela Stone, highlights stories of professional women who left the workplace to better pursue motherhood. The book featured one woman who thought that she would have to sacrifice her career for family due to her maternal role. Since she didn’t want her kids to essentially be raised by their nanny, she decided to “opt out”.
Family dynamics vary and there is not a one-size-fits-all way to make things work. However, as a woman who wants to enter the corporate arena and be a mother one day, the stories of these women were eye-opening. I learned that it’s important to begin weighing options in order to be prepared to form a future course of action. As organizations make strides to allow for better work-life balance, things may improve, although full immersion in both motherhood and corporate life is impossible. Two women that have struck a balance are Sheila Marcelo, CEO of Care.com and Wendy Cebula, former COO of VistaPrint. Both were able to pursue careers in business and ultimately become company leaders. A viable solution for finding balance calls for increased flexibility and sacrifice from organizations and women.
“You can’t do everything 100 percent,” Cebula said in a Forbes article. “You can’t chaperone every field trip and attend every optional work event. Set the bar at an achievable level.”
Organizations can be more flexible by offering adequate maternity leave, by hiring project-specific employees to cover for new mothers, being more receptive to part-time work from women with strong potential and allowing work from home more often.
Some may think that with the way corporations function, it’s wishful thinking to believe that women can successfully climb the corporate ladder and be adequately present in their kids’ lives. However, at one point or another, the things that we have achieved as a society were just that: wishful thinking.
Remi Omodara Columnist
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