Thank you Jack Welch for these comments in the Wall Street Journal. His view is that women have to make tough choices and they lost if “you’re not there in the clutch”.
I’m feeling particularly sensitive about not being there at the moment because Occupational Health have insisted that I work from home and my team of medical types are keen that I spend as much time as possible horizontal.
Not only am I having to cope with the physical isolation from the office and the feeling of disconnection that comes from operating at the end of a mobile phone/blackberry/remote desktop, but I’m also having to cope with the worries about being out of sight and out of mind, or actually more worryingly very much in mind and being seen as a slacker/uncommitted/leaving my franchise to be ‘stolen away’ by others.
What I do is very specialised, I’ve spent years building up a fairly unique set of skills and a market presence and I have always wanted to be able to combine motherhood and work – not just because I feel it maintains some element of the ‘me’ that I’ve worked hard to define over the past 12 years in the workplace, but also because it gives me something once my children grow up and away from needing me so intensely and to a degree because it means I can hopefully show my daughters that women can compete equally with men and that there are choices available for them to make.
And yet, having chosen to work in a male environment I find myself coming up against the fact that most of my male colleagues don’t have experience of working mothers in their personal lives and certainly not in their professional ones and so their immediate set of reference points is that portrayed for them by the media.
They do not see my efforts to make sure that I give that extra bit more so there can be no perception of slacking, they do not see the hours worked at home in the evenings and weekends to make sure that nothing gets dropped, they do not see the continuous self analysis where my internal voice is a far harsher critic than they could ever be.
No what they see is comments like this splashed across the news, confirming their gut feeling that if you’re not there in person, if you’re not doing it exactly the same as everyone else, if you’re not part of the big boys’ gang then you just aren’t going to make the grade.
So the worst part of Mr Welch’s comments is not that a retired CEO has these views, that a dinosaur has failed to realise that the world has moved on, but that by merely saying this that he has perpetuated the myth that working mothers, no matter what they do, cannot be as good as everyone.
He has made all my efforts meaningless because it doesn’t matter what I’ve done or what I’ll try to do in the future – the perception is and will be that I can’t have it all and that I’ve failed even before I’ve really started.
1 comment to No such thing as a work/life balance for women ?
I loved reading you blog. Being an ex-banker I know very well the hard work it is to be a working mum in the City. No matter how hard banks try to portray themselves as family-friendly, it is a men's world and the fact is that most of these men can work long hours+weekends becuase their spouses look after the home and kids. So it's a challenge for women that don't have the same amount of support to put in the same amount of work. And for some jobs, where competition is fierce, there is no other way. But I admire your courage and determination to retain your job, well done and my best for the road ahead. No matter what the media says, there are always the exceptions that prove that there is such a thing as a working mum in the City!