Is the Work/Family Balancing Act only for Women?
There is a lot of information on the internet and the self-help aisle in the bookstore about how to balance your career with your family. Both aspects are important to any career person’s well-being, and if one side is out of whack, it inevitably affects the other. An article published in the Harvard Business Review, Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life, had some disturbing news that striving for a healthy balance between career and family may only be a concern for women in executive positions and not their male colleagues. Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg and research associate Robin Abrahams looked at interviews of nearly 4,000 C-suite executives conducted by HBS students from 2008-2013. Forty-four percent of the interviewees were female. Although the percentage of male to female was almost even, their answers varied greatly when it came to the intersection of career and family. When work and family responsibilities collide, for example, men may lay claim to the cultural narrative of the good provider. Several male executives who admitted to spending inadequate time with their families consider absence an acceptable price for providing their children with opportunities they themselves never had. In other words, men claimed that being a good breadwinner was a sound pursuit and justified any lack of quality time they had with their families. Traditionally men in executive positions had domestic partners at home whose main responsibility was to maintain the home and family. And that attitude of making money over family responsibilities seemed to still be acceptable according to the review. Career women, however, weren’t talking about their family sacrifices in the same way. A career woman wouldn’t chat at the water cooler about all the time she didn’t spend with her family. It would be frowned on by her female co-workers. One female executive in the survey said, “When you are paid well, you can get all the [practical] help you need. What is the most difficult thing, though—what I see my women friends leave their careers for—is the real emotional guilt of not spending enough time with their children. The guilt of missing out.” There lies the crux of the career vs family conundrum. As a society, both men and women viewed it as perfectly acceptable for a man to contribute less to quality time with his family as long as he was providing for them financially. Women, on the other hand, had expectations for themselves to do both equally well. As the Harvard Business Review article said, “work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth, today’s senior executives will tell you.” Perhaps it was impossible to achieve the upper echelons of corporate management while attending every dance recital or football game. However, it shouldn’t only be women who worried about missing out on their family’s quality time together. It was interesting to note, though, that many of the Harvard students who interviewed the executives found the findings dismaying. Both male and female students argued the article’s theme that you couldn’t be a successful executive and also lead a balanced life. This gave me hope that perhaps the next generation of male executives will consider a quality home life as big a concern as that of their female colleagues, because equality in the workplace can’t truly shift without both sexes getting behind it. Sources: Grose, Jessica. “Male Executives Don’t Feel Guilt, See Work-Life Balance as a Women’s Problem.” Slate. 5 March 2014. Web. 9 March 2014. Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams. “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life.” Harvard Business Review. March 2014. Web. 9 March 2014.