Helping women in business keep balance

Kate Rand Lloyd and Anne Mollegen Smith, editor at large and editor in chief of Working Woman magazine, on the challenges facing businesswomen: What is the biggest challenge facing career women today?

Lloyd: As women move higher and higher up, they feel more isolation, and in a way more frustration. ... In the office, she may be the only senior vice-president who's a woman. OK, she's alone, she doesn't have a role model, she doesn't need one, because she's a well-trained professional. But she's isolated.

Then she goes home. She walks in the door and says, ``Guess what, I closed a million-dollar deal today,'' and someone in there says, ``Where are my socks?''

We are really seeing that a lot of women are not allowing themselves to be who they are at home for fear of rocking the boat, of straining the patterns of relationships with husband and children, and so they back off when they get home. That too is isolating.

Is Superwoman a myth; can women ``have it all''?

Lloyd: People don't want to hear about Superwoman at all. The odd thing is ... they're being Superwomen, but they've relaxed a little. They really don't care if there are dust mice rolling around under the bed. They've noticed that nobody ever died of yellow waxy buildup, and they don't care, because they are doing it all, if ``all'' means they have a career, they have a husband, they have a family.

I'm sometimes bewildered by the enormous amount of media attention given to how difficult it is to have it all. If you went out there and counted on your fingers, you would find hundreds of thousands, probably a million or more, women are doing just that.

How do you juggle a family and career?

Smith: The stress comes not from multiple roles but from perfectionism. I believe you can have it all, and you can even enjoy it all. But if you're trying to be the perfect mother, the perfect boss, the perfect volunteer worker, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, there's going to be a good deal of stress.

If you have a good relationship with your husband and your parents, if you have the satisfaction of being around a growing child, if you have accomplishments in work, if you feel you're part of a larger community, you have so many sources of satisfaction and personal support, and so many chances to be happy. I feel there's great strength in multiple roles. To lock yourself into one role only is ... putting all your eggs into one basket.

Do you act like a man or a woman on the job?

Lloyd: Fortunately women have gotten through the phase ... where they feel they have to be one of the boys. They are ready to be themselves. Joseph Pleck, a clinical psychologist, once said - and I'm paraphrasing - ``It isn't that we have to make men and women the same. It's just that we don't have to strive so hard to make them different.''

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