Sheryl Sandberg notes that young women come up to her and ask her about home life issues while men ask her business questions. I find it interesting that her conclusion is that because young women ask her these questions they are not as serious about business as men. I would guess these same women would ask a man business questions and never think about asking about home/life issues. Nor would these young women ask Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Ginni Rometty, Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Pelosi about home/life issues. These high profile women either don’t have children or their children are grown. The young women asking Sheryl Sandberg are trying to understand what it takes to be high profile and balance work/ life issues.
The new class of young, high profile, C level women, with children have a great deal of support available to them as a professional and a parent; Support that is not available to the overriding majority of women. Sheryl Sandberg talks about leaving work at 5:30 so she can have dinner with her family. In almost every situation I know of, an individual contributor or middle management women (or man) who leaves the office at 5:30 every day to have dinner with their family has excluded themselves from promotion (we call that mommy track). Mellisa Mayer has famously stated that her baby is easy. Any baby is easy when you have 24 x 7 nanny care, someone who cleans your house, does your laundry, grocery shopping, makes your meals, and your company builds a nursery next to your office.
The real answer to work/life is that there are very few women who can have it all, if it all is a C level job and being an active parent. If a woman really wants to be a C level executive and have time for her children she has to become a star first; since she will need to dedicate 60 to 70 hours a week to her job before becoming a star. Once a star she can negotiate leaving early or having a nursery next to her office. As a star she will have a salary that covers two to three nanny’s at a cost of $50K a nanny. The rest of us intelligent, educated, career focused women who are already leaning in, need to make choices and set priorities. Choices on who to marry – will he truly partner in raising the kids; Choices on how we run our households – do you have the money to outsource all the homemaking and child rearing tasks; Choices on raising your children – are you OK missing school events, eating a family dinner, reading to your child, making sure they have completed their homework.
Many women get off the “C” train because after having a child the sacrifices to a job are just not worth the sacrifices necessary for their family. Yes, of course as the children get older it is much easier to manage a family from a cell phone. But, then again that is why you see so few C level mothers with young children and most C level women with older children, grown children, or no children at all.