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10/01/12

Women Can Have It All … But It’s Not Easy

By Shari Sandifer
Women Can Have It All … But It’s Not Easy

Anne-Marie Slaugher’s article in The Atlantic last summer, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” set the Internet ablaze and renewed the debate of an age-old question: Is it possible for career-driven women to balance work and family, while also taking proper care of their own minds, bodies and spirits? As a single mother to three young daughters who runs an international company and strives to maintain a regular exercise and “personal time” schedule, I can tell you that it is possible. But it’s not always easy.

Maintaining a satisfying work/life balance requires a constant commitment, but is well-worth the effort to “have it all.” I have built a successful company in an industry I am passionate about and it has not been without its sacrifices. I travel about 30% of the time, but it is fiercely important to me to spend quality time with my children and attend their sports games and school events. It’s taken work, but over time, I’ve found a balance by creating flexibility in my work schedule. Although I’m always available via phone, iPad or computer, I limit my work days so I can be at home for dinner most nights – even if this means pushing it back until 7 pm on a late night to ensure we have family time. I also never miss the “big stuff” and stay in communication with my children as to which events are most important to them.

It’s impossible for me to be in two (and in some cases, more) places at one time and as the CEO of a rapidly growing company, there is often overlaps in my schedule. Luckily, living in the 21st century makes it easy to stay connected and work remotely, so I’ve taken conference calls everywhere from at home to on one of my daughter’s school field trip. Working around my daughters’ activities means I often get up early and stay up late to complete work, exercise and finish household tasks, but through creativity in how I structure my day, I’ve been able to achieve a balance of fulfillment in work, family and my personal life.

I realize that, unfortunately, companies don’t always make this easy – or even possible – for many of their employees. The United States was built on a foundation of hard work and tenacity to achieve success, creating a “live to work” mentality in our society that is embedded into the culture of many companies – and employees often face scrutiny when the need to deal with personal or family matters arises. However, as a business owner, I believe that one of the greatest assets to an organization is a culture in which employees’ work/life balance is of the utmost importance. By creating a positive environment in which employees are fulfilled professionally, emotionally, mentally and physically, a company can achieve a high level of efficiency; I’ve worked hard to instill these ideals in my own workplace and it’s helped us thrive as a team. And in today’s world – in which working remotely is both easy and commonplace – creating flexible work schedules that provide employees with the ability to take care of both their jobs and personal lives doesn’t have to impede productivity and reduces the likelihood of workplace stress. It would behoove businesses to applaud employees for the need to take care of themselves, rather than see it as reflective of a lack of commitment to one’s work.

In the end, “having it all” is subjective – and it ultimately doesn’t apply just to women. These days, more and more men are involved with their families, pitch in on household tasks, and seek a more balanced, fulfilling life that extends beyond the office and title of “breadwinner.” Getting there isn’t always easy and it requires the cooperation of one’s employer. But with hard work, patience and creativity, we women really can have it all.

(Piece written by Avant founder/CEO Shari Dingle Sandifer.)

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