Can Women Have it All? Can Men Have it All?

Can Women Have it All? [Can Men Have it All?]

I was traveling and saw an interview by Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, in The Sunday Times (UK, July 6, 2014). I see that the interview has been picked up quite a lot in a number of international media outlets.

Indra speaks from the perspective of a woman who is a partner, parent and paid employee -- the three main roles we often focus on when we discuss gender issues (Indira adds daughter and daughter-in-law to the mix). Indra argues that women can only "pretend to have it all," and she discourages women from allowing guilt to creep into their emotional repertoire.

As we head into a world where women increasingly out-learn and out-earn men, yet want to balance a career with family, we will hear more about work-life balance issues. But work-life balance affects men just as much as it affects women.

Issues of work-life balance are set to intensify as women aged 18-34 are now more likely than men to rate career as a high priority (66 percent women vs. 59 percent men; vs. 57 percent women and 58 percent men in 1997). The same report also notes that women continue to rate marriage and family as important.

Since 1965, women have tripled the number of hours of paid work they undertake each week and reduced housework by almost half. Time spent looking after children has slightly increased. Even though women still do the majority of work around the house, there have been a number of important changes. For example, men spend more time doing housework and looking after children, and many activities around the house are now shared: childcare (37 percent shared), cleaning (31 percent), grocery shopping (29 percent) and meal preparation (two percent).

While men are doing more, research suggests that many women are exhausted because, it seems, they are riddled with guilt to be the perfect mom and have the perfect home (Audrey Dow in Alpert 2013). The pressure to do it all is not imagined because society still expects women to be responsible for the majority of childcare. The Pew Research Center, for example, reports that 42 percent of adults believe mothers of young children should work part-time and one-third said mothers of young children should not work at all. So, while women are working more because they want a career and because their earning potential has increased, society still expects them to stay at home. For many women, this exacerbates an already difficult work-life conundrum.

When I was doing research for my book Why Marketing to Women Doesn't Work, I came across a great quote by Warren Farrell (in Kolhatkar, 2013, p. 62). Farrell suggests that the way to improve work-life balance, is for women to "persuade men to acknowledge that they want the same" as women. If women can achieve this then "women are more likely to get what they want out of their careers and family lives."

Alpert, Emily (2013) "Dad is Helping Out More, Mom is Still Exhausted", Los Angeles Times, 9 October.

Kolhatkar, Sheelah (2013) "Men are People Too", BusinessWeek, 9-13 June, 58-63.