This time, an onslaught of media pile-on was sparked by Pepsi Co’s CEO and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s TED talk. Just this month alone, there have been innumerable articles piggy-backing on this topic. I think the media is in love with the myth of a woman in a “C-level” job who comes home to cook dinner, helps the kids with their homework and then does the housework. The classic “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan” cliche. Then they interview real people who are incredibly successful with this undertone of: “oh woe is me…sigh…you just can’t have it all”. If I wanted, I could directly counter the gloom and doom idea by pointing out empirical evidence just from my own circles:
- I work for a woman-owned company and she raised two great kids…incidentally, they are in high school now, so building her business tracked right along with the kids’ growing up
- …Or…that in my group of friends, there are two women who are partners in their firms (separate firms) who also are raising two kids apiece
- …Or…that another friend is a single mom but also a successful small-business owner
- …do I need to go on?
So I could attack this out-dated idea of “you can’t have it all” on its own terms. However, it’s an idiotic question in the first place. Implicit is the idea that all women are the same and they all have the same definition of what “..it all..” is exactly. That’s just silly. The truth is that not everyone will be – or even wants to be – a CEO (or other super-high-level exec) and the REAL conversation should be about everyone defining what “it all” is on their own terms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there is still injustices and “glass ceilings” out there. I won’t argue that point; but, there are so many opportunities for anyone – man or woman – that its silly to get caught up in someone else’s idea of what your life should be like.
So how does this relate to working in IT? Simple…it goes back to the fact that no one is going to give you a career path. You must make it for yourself. The idea is that YOU (no one else) need to think long and hard about what you think “having it all” means. Then be doggedly determined with every decision you make to make that vision a reality. In the end, you’ll find that you CAN have it all…at least what you define it to mean.
At the risk of inviting criticism because I’m a white male, I’ll offer up my version of having it all…because I think I already have it all. Now, am I in the highest level job that I can hope to achieve? No…but its a marathon, not a sprint. For myself, “having it all” means that I am comfortable (not content) with my position in life and the choices I’m making: I have a good job, a great family, I spend quality time with my wife and son, we typically cook dinners most weeknights and I cook some of them, I exercise a few times a week and help others when I can. To me, that’s it! I know that I will continue to grow personally and professionally…and that’s OK. I’m not beating myself up that I haven’t made my first million or am not a CEO of the coolest Silicon Valley start-up. I value other things.
Now, for your part…you need to identify what you really value. Then every decision you make needs to be geared to that. For example: if you’re a highly technical person, you shouldn’t take a management job just because it’s offered to you as “the next step”. Your next step might be a different company…or maybe going on your own to create a new app because you are so highly technical. The point is to not let others talk you into what your life should be like. Only you can say what that is…and in the 21st century, there are many options and alternatives to get where you really need to go.
Maybe this is obvious to alot of people…maybe, but sometimes you need to say things out loud a few times…or to “call the elephant out in the room”…or in this case, “call the elephant out in the data center”.