Can Women Really “Have it All”?

There’s been a lot in the news lately around women in the workforce. Specifically, can women “have it all.” When it comes to workforce equality, I think we’re at a plateau. “Having It All” is becoming a buzz word (buzz phrase?). Yet the solutions don’t exist – we still need to find or create them.

What Does “Having it All” Mean?

First, some prior reading.

  • Liz Prueitt is a baker, an entrepreneur, and a mother. She was interviewed about the struggles and benefits in her life, and what it means to “have it all.” Working Mom: Liz Prueitt
  • Ayanna Pressley is an At-Large member of Boston’s city council. Her coauthors are Beth Monaghan, CEO of InkHouse PR, and Jesse Mermell, Executive Director of the Alliance for Business Leadership. They wrote a guest post on the League of Women in Government about the policies we need to have in place for equality in the workforce. Guest Blogger: Ayanna Pressley on Redefining “Having it All”
  • NYMag wrote about a new study showing the health and stress impacts on women who work and have a home life. The Quest to ‘Have it All’ is Making Women Feel Sick

A brief summary: being a mother and a person with a career increases women’s stress in a way it doesn’t for men. Workplace equality has come a long way, and women have more opportunities than ever before. But women are being asked if they want to add more to their lives. No one’s asking if they want to make choices.

In addition, our entire society is still structured around the assumption that women are the primary caregivers in the family, and that men are the breadwinners. So when women do make choices, the infrastructure doesn’t exist to support them. From a social perspective, they are also heavily judged by colleagues and friends.

How Can Women Have it All?

First, it might be time to replace the phrase “having it all.” It’s not the most useful way to view the choices women make. Second, it’s time to stop looking to women to make all the changes. Men need to step up too – and more importantly, we need to reframe our society and replace elements of the infrastructure. For example, employers need to reconsider their assumptions about work travel. (Why is laundry a covered expense at most businesses, but not babysitting? Because at one time the man was traveling and needed his laundry done for work, but the woman was home with the kids. Not anymore!)

Equality is a many-step processes, and an ongoing one. We’ve made progress, but there’s a ways to go. Let’s not stop yet.

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