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Little Gains in 10 years for Women CEOs

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

By Karen Delk

Published Monday, March 18, 2013


As Women's Month draws to a close, I am struck at the renewed national debate about women having it all. Over the course of my life, I remember two distinct periods when I discussed and heavily thought about my ability to have it all. What does having it all mean? Having it all means we have the freedom to choose our careers at home or in the workplace. Freedom to choose to have children or not. Freedom to choose to marry or not.

Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to lean into their careers. She contends the rewards are there if women:

  • Speak up more in the corporate board settings

  • Get involved

  • Stay involved

  • Have a spouse who willingly helps keep the Homefront in order

  • Have a spouse to help is especially important if we are trying to have a family

Several years ago, I was fortunate to be part of the inaugural symposium, "Smashing the Glass Ceiling," for the Weissman Center for Leadership. Then, we discussed these same issues. We questioned whether women could have it all. How and when do you do it? We determined it depends on timing, resources, and sheer determination and will.

Fourteen years before that, I took a class titled "Women and Work." We debated this same question. This is just not a question for young women. Intergenerationally, women are perched on this three-legged stool of commitment to a career, finding love in their personal life, and starting or expanding a family.

"Can women have it all?"

I concluded a while ago that it is possible for women to have it all but not all at once. Like a juggler spinning plates, get two or three plates spinning before adding two to three more. Know that you will need to keep all plates spinning but at different speeds. You do this by focusing on the action you want to take. I focused on my career first (one plate) to get established, finding a mate second (two plates), and I relocated (three plates) with my career and then started a family (four plates).

I see a cultural shift in the work world right now. This is helpful for all women but particularly women in the millennial generation. They decide what they want to do and when they want to do it is more flexible now than it has been. If beginning a career, finding the right mate, or starting a family are important, women have the option to decide that in any order. Unlike 20+ years ago, when these decisions' order was more rigid. A truism 50 years ago and now is women with disposable income have more options to acquire the help and resources to create the lifestyle they want to live.

I am in the midst of reframing my life to create the lifestyle I want. How about you?

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