By Ifeoma Tete Mbuk
In true Jack Welch fashion, the former CEO of General Electric and lauded biz guru, recently made some pretty definitive statements about work-life balance to a group of HR professionals. â€œThereâ€™s no such thing as work-life balance,â€ he told the Society for Human Resource Managementâ€™s annual conference. If you take time off for family you risk being passed over for promotions because â€œyouâ€™re not there in the clutch,â€ he said.
He was, of course, referring to women. The women he knows who have reached the top corporate echelons have not deviated from a straight path to the top.â€Weâ€™d love to have more women moving up faster,â€ Welch said, according to the Wall Street Journal. â€œBut theyâ€™ve got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one.â€ There are only work-life choices, and each choice has a consequence, Welch said.
Newsflash, Jack. We women know that every decision we make will have an effect on our career, our family, our financial way of life. Truth is we think about it all the time. Itâ€™s sadly condescending to let women as a group know this, since itâ€™s true for men, too. Welch said we can have a â€œniceâ€ life if we take time off to care for family at different points in our lives, and we can have â€œniceâ€ careers. We just canâ€™t have the corner office.
So while Jackâ€™s wife Suzy writes about her 10-10-10 method of making decisionsâ€”weighing how a decision will play out 10 minutes from now, 10 months, then 10 yearsâ€”should one of those decisions fall in favour of family some of the time, Jack says weâ€™re out of luck for the big-time positions. He may be right. In many companies, he is certainly right. Maybe Jack didnâ€™t get the memo, but there are lots of avenues to success these days, and not just for â€œniceâ€ careers, but fulfilling, successful ones. If weâ€™ve learned anything these past few decades itâ€™s that even if you make the ultimate sacrifice for company and work first, which many men have done for eons, you may very well be rewarded with an untimely layoff at the height of your career. Hereâ€™s your severance. Buh-bye.
The Journal interviewed one woman who made it to the CEO position of a Dutch publishing business, despite daring to take months-long rather than weeks-long maternity leaves when her children, now adults, were born. So, ladies, donâ€™t be discouraged by Jackâ€™s words. There are lots of ways to succeed at work while living and tending to life outside of it. Women are charting new paths every day.
What do you think about what Welch said? Is work-life balance an impossible goal, particularly if you are pursuing a demanding career?
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