I’ve been growing increasingly tired lately with the current trend of conversations about whether or not professional women can “have it all” and whether or not we are “leaning in” enough! Not because I don’t believe we deserve to have it all, but because in 2013 it is still even necessary to have this conversation!
Here’s the deal. We can’t have it all. I know, I’ve tried it, and so have most of you! No one can have it all! Something always has to give. Humans are only capable of so much work in one day and often we are just putting way too much pressure on ourselves. We can, however, have a good portion of it. If we have a supportive partner, we can have even more of it, but no, no one can have it all.
But ladies, men have known this all along. All of those professional men who bounced to the top of the corporate ladder, a good portion of those men sacrificed a personal life as well to get there. A large portion of them have spent their successful professional lives being disenfranchised from their own families, but feeling that as men, they had no other choice than to be the “bread winner.” This is just as much a result of an outdated patriarchal system as the struggles many of us are still face trying to climb that same ladder. Both need to be changed. This is also what really frustrates me about this conversation, that we are still segregating ourselves by gender at all, in the workplace, or anywhere!
Now before anyone accuses me of being anti-feminist, let me assure you that is not the case! My point is this. If we are going to talk gender equality than we have to talk about it for all genders! For every parent out there that wants more time to work on their career, there is another parent who wants more time to throw a ball with their kids. There’s also a child-free person who may like more time with a partner. However, you can’t know any of this by just looking at someone and judging them by their gender!
That young woman you may hesitate to hire because she is clearly pregnant, she may have a wonderful supportive partner at home, ready willing and able to take on the full child care responsibilities and a new child will actually have very little effect on her job performance. On the other hand, that single man you think may have all the time in the world to spend long hours in the office, could have an elderly father at home, for whom he is the primary caretaker. He, in the long run, may be less focused on his job than you would have ever guessed. BOTH deserve our support to be successful in the workplace.
Everyone benefits this way! Every family benefits this way, regardless of its make up; regardless of whether the family has one mom, or one dad, or two moms, or two dads, or one of each, or no children at all! Every family benefits when we support all workers equally.
Unless you have a job that specifically requires the use of a penis or vagina to complete a task, and there seems to be only one or two professions I can think of that would, than gender is completely irrelevant in the work place, completely!
And I don’t want to hear anyone say “well men are better at this type of job” or “women work this way!” We know better than that now! This is not 1979. Yes, we can say “some men” or “some women” work this way or that way, but we know this does not apply, ever, to all men or all women! So just stop it, right now!
So instead of focusing on one gender or another, lets start having the conversation about how humans might be able to “have it all,” or as close to it as we can get anyway.
Yes, believe me, I am well aware that women still experience inequalities in the work place. I am certainly aware that we still often make only 77 cents for every dollar our male colleagues make. What I’m saying is let’s bring women up to the level men are at, not just because they are women but because they are good workers. Then, lets also give men some of the privileges that we’ve given women in recent years without penalizing them either. Lets let single dads have more flextime and greater access to day care. Lets not just assume that people without kids don’t mind working on holidays because what else could they possibly have to do. Let’s treat everyone in the work place equally. Lets keep in mind that everyone, regardless of gender or family status, deserves to have a work environment that gives them time for creativity, and fulfillment and leisure.
I don’t want anyone to be discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender. I also don’t want anyone to have special privileges because of their gender! I don’t want gender to be factored into the equation at all! The conversation about work/life balance involves everyone! We have got to stop, once and for all, judging people professionally, by gender and family status, and instead judge them by the quality of their work and their commitment to their goals. No, we can’t have it all, but we should at least be able to have all we’ve earned, all of us!