Women in Senior Roles & Work Life Balance

February 8, 2011

Is it possible to have a good work life balance when performing a senior role?

To be honest, I have seen mixed results here, with the majority of executives and senior leaders working excessive hours generally at the expense of their personal lives.

In saying that though, I have seen it work extremely well for a few select executives who work extremely hard to ensure that both areas of their life work and work well.

I will single out females in senior roles here, as there seems to be more information on this particular demographic.

Being Female is Not the Issue

I don’t believe at all that this is just a female issue, there are many males in senior roles who are faced with the same challenges in performing at the highest level whilst also having a life outside of work.

I have spoken to females in senior roles who have been faced with this challenge over the years.  Unfortunately, in several cases I have known of, if they haven’t been able to obtain the flexibility they were looking for, they have exited the workforce.

These highly effective leaders have taken their knowledge and expertise to start their own business to create the flexibility that they are looking for.

This is a tremendous loss for Australian businesses (although no doubt a positive for the growth of new business and for those women taking matters into their own hands).

According to a survey in the UK, 82% of women believe that balancing work and family is the biggest hurdle in progressing their career.

Although we have seen government take a move on addressing the gender gap with board representation, we do need to take into account what can be done at the lower levels to help females with career progression whilst supporting them with the challenges that they are facing balancing their life.

As executive Elizabeth Alexander stated towards the end of last year, if women don’t feel they are progressing in their careers, they need to start exploring other opportunities and be prepared to walk away if you don’t get them.

At the end of the day, it is up to all of us to pave the way to our own success – whether it is professional, personally or both.

Of course employers can assist, and I believe whilst women search for career progression and a balanced life, they need to see if it’s possible with their existing employer, talk to them if need be, perhaps even engage a work life balance coach for some ideas, then if nothing can be done in your current circumstances and you’re dissatisfied, then it may be worthwhile exploring other opportunities.

There are employers out there supporting their senior leaders to achieve a balanced life.

I recently spoke to a direct executive report of the CEO who works from home once a week – I have never heard of this arrangement at such a senior level and it is certainly possible and happening!

There are employers out there, so I encourage you, if you’re not able to gain what you’re looking for where you are, take a look around.  Good luck!

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