The concept of “women having it all,” is a popular theme in movies, books, and television shows.
From “Sex and the City” to Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” females in media and in real life are pressured to find “balance” in their personal and professional lives in more ways than men are.
While marrying and raising children can be fulfilling for a woman’s personal life, they undoubtedly change their professional life. The Center for Talent Innovation reported in 2010 that 31 percent of women left their jobs and 75 percent of those women did so to raise their children.
USA Today reported that the number of stay-at-home moms from 2010 to 2012 rose to 29 percent, three percent higher than in 2008, during the Great Recession.
Still, times are changing. According to The Atlantic, more women than ever are career-focused. 2011 was the first year more women than men had advanced degrees; the number of jobs held by females is at 48 percent and women own 8 million businesses.
Despite these changing demographics, there is still progress to be made: Less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female and hold less than 20 percent of executive board spots.
Perhaps these low statistics can be attributed to tensions between the professional and personal worlds. Pew reported only 21 percent of adults say young mothers working outside the home has been positive for society while 37 percent say it is negative.
Other reasons include the lack of policies placed to support working women with families. Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn at Cornell University reported a third of women leave the workforce from a lack of policies supporting caretakers. While Europe has built on parental leave, child care, and protecting part time workers, America has failed to enact laws that better support working mothers.
The concept of women “having it all,” is difficult when the work force makes it difficult to do so, challenging countless females to make the difficult decision between compromising their professional and personal lives.
One way to combat this is for state legislation to catch up and enact their own policies. According to Us News, California began a program that covers 55 percent of an employee’s salary up to $1,000 per week. Other states like New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Hawaii adopted similar plans.
Another way we can stop putting pressure on women is to abandon the idea of “having it all,” here and now. Maria Shriver once suggested in Elle Magazine for women to think about “having it all over a lifetime,” which is a more feasible suggestion.
But ultimately, no one can be the perfect mother, boss, employee, wife, volunteer, friend, daughter, or sister. It takes a lot of work to be excellent at one, so let’s stop putting pressure on girls from an early age to balance everything effortlessly. Working women, stay at home mothers, and the combination are invaluable to society, keeping the world spinning.
And that is more than enough.
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