Author: Maggie Walsh
Climbing the corporate ladder has been the traditional model for career success for hundreds of years. You start at the bottom, and through hard work and dedication, get to the top. Unfortunately, this process has only been open to women in the last several decades, and men still vastly outnumber women in top leadership positions. Only 25% of American executive and senior-level positons, and merely 6% of CEO positions belong to women (source: americanprogress.org).
Career women feel just as pressured as men to be in positions of leadership to measure their success. To manage employees, teams, departments, or even a whole company is a necessary step to achieve the top positions. So, what gives? Are women not given the same opportunities as men? Do women opt-out of careers in order to tend to their families? Are women satisfied reaching a certain point of responsibility and leadership and staying there? All of the above.
A pillar of modern feminism is that our foremothers fought to give us something they did not have – choices. Freedom to choose to work, or to stay at home, or to do a little of both. Some women encounter roadblocks in the career climb - from the birth of a child, an inability to find safe and cost-effective child care, or by encountering gender bias in their work place. Today’s women take on those roadblocks, get creative, and redefine success on their own terms.
Some women find their success in the corner office, while others feel successful - not by traditional markers like money or leadership - but by doing what they love, or by giving themselves the room to nurture other parts of their lives through freelancing or working part-time. As a full-time working mom who is currently in a leadership position - I value my children, and I value my career. Here’s the but: I would not want to be in the type of leadership position that was so demanding that I felt I wasn’t giving enough of myself to my children. Will that hold me back? Probably. Am I comfortable with that? Absolutely.
I am grateful for the tenacious women who have paved the way through the corporate jungle. We need their strength and their mentorship. I firmly believe the more women there are in leadership positions to guide other women, the better it is for all of us. But that’s not the only way to success. Women can find success by choosing alternate paths that allow them to pursue passions without the confines of a 9-to-5. “Women see gig work as the opportunity to level the playing field - 86% believe gig work opens the door to equal pay, only 45% believe traditional jobs offer the same opportunity” (source: USA Today).
The beauty of being alive today is that we are the change, and we are creating the blueprint for our children to find success however they want, and not by conventional measures. The women who have achieved a high level of career success set an amazing example of leadership. Just like the women who are forging non-traditional paths. Both are equally successful. We should all choose to measure ourselves within our own parameters of life success, whatever those personal measures may be – not necessarily by a number on a paycheck or a title on a business card.
Photo: Studio Caw