Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We need to stop looking and women's success like it's 1985

Two articles that recently discussed women in business this week made me want to puke. The first one is from the Wall Street Journal and asked the question “What’s holding back women entrepreneurs?” It says that although women are starting their own businesses at much higher rates than men – the women-owned businesses are not as big as the men-owned businesses. Problem #1 (and yes, they called it a problem)? Men tend to start businesses to be the “boss” and women start businesses to be personally challenged and balance work and family.

The second article in Time Magazine touts the accomplishments of three Wall Street leaders who are women who were underestimated by men.

What I find most appalling about both these articles is that they set the standard of success/accomplishment/whatever on how the women compare to the men. It’s so 1980s Working Girl that I have the urge to put on my acid wash jacket.

Let’s be honest here – if more women were willing to do what the top dog male executives and CEOs did to get to their position, then more women would be top dog executives and CEOs. A lot of women make choices that impact their income/status – me included. I worked part time for 5 years when my girls were younger. I don’t regret a minute of it – it was MY choice. I wasn’t being held back by The Man.

I would like to see an article about the strides that men have made in parenting. Today’s dads spend significantly more time with their children than their own dads spent with them - and they wish they could spend even more time with them. Does it impact their careers? Of course it does. My husband and a lot of his friends took paternity leave after their children were born – and they paid the price at work. The old boys don’t like it when you do that.

The issue here is not a gender issue – it’s a generational issue. “Being challenged” and “balancing work and family” are legitimate reasons to start a business. I’ve argued for a while that Gen Xers don’t define success the same way the Boomers do. If “bigger” is the only measurement of success – this myth that women are somehow not equal will persist.

If you want to achieve bigness, there’s a way to go – and both men and women can do it. If you want to achieve something else, there’s another way to go – and again it’s an option for both men and women. We don’t all have to be the same, but we do all have the same opportunity.


Kristina said...


Srsly Me said...

You tell'em!

Paul MacPherson said...

I have a few thoughts whizzing through my head on this one.

I am not as successful (if you judge success by job title and income level as these articles seem to imply as their criteria for success) as my brother or my father, because I choose to be more of a participant in my child's life. My brothers choice was to have no kids and my father was more or less absent from my upbringing (it was my mothers job to raise the family, his was to play golf and make money). I am not saying I am better for my choices, I am saying it is more difficult to determine and compare success (as in who is more successful) in such general terms since we all define it so differently these days... both men and women

GenXpert said...

@Paul - Thanks for posting! I'm guessing you're a Gen Xer. That's a VERY typical attitude of Gen X men. I have met countless Gen X men who tell me that although their jobs are important, their families are more important - and they're willing to plateau their careers while their kids are growing up so they can have balance.

I think that's the huge thing these articles missed. My hunch is if you looked at the data in terms of generations and not gender, you'd find very similiar results from Gen X men and women. I seriously doubt that Gen X men are chasing the almighty dollar and career title as their fathers did. You see a lot written about the modern woman - but not so much about the modern man. From what I've seen, Gen X men across North America (that's the geographic area I travel for my work) have the same attitude as Gen X women in terms of work/life balance and what they would see as success.

ticketmaster said...

I agree with Paul too. Of course, Time magazine needs to take a walk off a cliff or get a different editor - went downhill a bit with the new editor. I believe that the definition of success has changed. In today's world, it seems it's more about whether you're happy, have a job, can balance what's on your plate rather than aiming for that high paid job with the corner office.

Stela James said...

You are right boss.
part time jobs