“There’s no such thing as work-life balance . . . There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences,” proclaims former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch. The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Welch’s comment made to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans on June 28.
Mr. Welch added that he knows the women who have reached the top of Archer Daniels, and of DuPont, and that they’ve had “pretty straight careers.”
One female CEO quoted in the article commented that women can “take a couple of years off,” to raise children and still become CEOs. “But if you take a decade off, you probably aren’t going to make it to the top.”
None of these observations is particularly shocking. It’s not surprising that most current female CEOs have had “pretty straight careers.” Nor should it be a barn-stormer that someone who spends ten years out of the work-force—male or female—is unlikely to make it to the highest possible rung on the corporate ladder. I would expect that anyone who makes it to the CEO level has had to make tremendous sacrifices in their personal life to get there. Obviously, those who make it to CEO are a unique breed in many respects.
For anything short of CEO, however, to the extent “straight career” means full-time with no time out of the workforce whatsoever, one would hope companies are learning that’s not the only way to get from point A to B. When a woman takes time off or slows down her career for family reasons, it may take her longer to get to the top, but her cumulative experience should be what counts. Her path to get there—whether straight, jagged, or curvy—should not matter.
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