Does Success Mean Selling Out Your Family?

Why aren't more women in leadership roles?Since Sheryl Sandberg's book came out in March, there's been a lot of discussion on leaning in, and various attitudes and barriers that might be holding women back. Why aren't more women in leadership roles?

A recent Citi/LinkedIn poll of professional women looked at this issue specifically. Only 38 percent of women in this sample thought they would rise to a more senior leadership position in their companies. The biggest reason was a lack of opportunities to be promoted, but the second reason (cited by 30 percent of those who didn't think they'd advance) was being reluctant to take time away from their families and personal lives.

I find this interesting in light of a few things. First, given that a study found that 4 in 10 families with kids have a female breadwinner, it's interesting to see the proportion of women who think their primary contribution to their children should be time, not money. Many promotions come with reasonable raises, which would also, presumably, benefit the children.

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But I also wonder if the time concern stems from a few common cultural narratives, too -- namely, that success requires forsaking a personal life, or that more responsibility will bring about a home life chaos that isn't worth the cost.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Recently I interviewed Karen Finerman, author of the new book Finerman's Rules. Finerman is the CEO of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a New York-based hedge fund. She's also the mother of four children (including two daughters, which makes the subtitle of her book, "Secrets I'd only tell my daughters about business and life," kind of strange -- in that she's not only telling her daughters. She's telling us too! But I digress).

When she got an offer a few years ago to do a regular gig on CNBC's Fast Money, she wondered how she was going to fit it all in. Indeed, she did go through a short fit of self-pity and exhaustion. But she also knew that it was a big opportunity to raise her profile.

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So she identified a few ways to make it work. First, to be on TV, she gave up watching TV. She gave up a hobby (modern art, in case you're wondering -- you get classy hobbies when you run a hedge fund). She learned to be efficient at live television: Once you know what you're doing, you can work from bullet points rather than creating a whole script for yourself. And she also got CNBC to come to her office to do hair and make-up. That's time she doesn't have to be in the studio, and can still be working.

Likewise, before turning down an opportunity, it would behoove anyone -- women, men, parents, non-parents -- to look at all the options, and don't argue other people's positions without knowing what they are. Maybe your spouse would be willing to step up things at home. Who knows? Maybe your spouse was hoping you'd get a big promotion so he/she could work less. Maybe your kids would like to live overseas for a year or two. Maybe your extended family would be willing to rearrange things to let you take an opportunity that requires travel. Maybe, you could just try it and see how it goes. You can always switch to a different job later if you don't like it -- but at least you're looking for a different job with a more senior position on your resume.

That was pretty much Finerman's advice. As she told me, "You never know till you try it. Don't turn it down -- try it and see." While I realize there might be some transaction costs if you try "it" and "it" is moving to Switzerland and "it" doesn't work out, many new opportunities wouldn't require such adjustments. Instead, they require sitting in your office at Metropolitan Capital Advisors attempting to look serious while you've got curlers in your hair. That's doable.

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I hope these women are the black women who did not have a 300 year head start. Too many complaints. Unless you are disabled there are really no other excuses. It's a woman's job to cook, clean and take care of the kids while the husband brings home the money. If you are single women then I suggest not to have kids.

June 19 2013 at 2:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It does if you are Kris Jener! or a Kardasian

June 18 2013 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is interesting how we evolved from work being something you did to take care of your family . . . to sacrifice your time with them for the better good. Today people have careers which are "me" oriented. People are chasing titles for feelings of self-importance rather than a means to provide for a family or even just oneself.

There will be arguments that I am wrong, but if you peel back the onion, you'll find that what drives people with careers is not about providing essentials, but actually is more about self-esteem.

I do not live in the 60s. I have two grown daughters with grandchildren. And I want my daughters to be all they can be. So my following statement is delivered with best intentions. Someone in the family, whether the husband, wife, or partner has to be the nurturer for the children. Without that, the children receive their guidance from others and there becomes a lack of foundation. Whatever you do, do not lose site of humanity.

June 18 2013 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vicky Newham

I run a successful business and a happy family! I have the perfect balance. I set up my business as a single mother, and I don;'t believe my daughter has been impacted on negatively. I see mums who don't work or who work part time and can't be bothered to do anything with their kids. My time is always quality one on one time. I believe there are fewer women in leadership positions because they don't want these roles, and that is fine,l everyone has the right to make their own choices.

June 18 2013 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
c laird478

Even feminism hasn't been able to increase the length of a day or a week. There are only so many hours, and time spent at the office is time that is unavailable to spend with your children. That's just a simple fact of reality, and no amount of blaming men will change it. But I'm sure that feminists will never give up trying to blame men anyway. LOL.

June 18 2013 at 7:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem is, most moms have 2 jobs: the one she gets paid for and the 24/7 job of taking care of the kids and household she does not get paid for... When everyone gathers at the end of the day, all eyes turn to (surprise) the mom for the answer of what is for dinner. It's mom who arranges/juggles the taxi service for the kids' various appointments and activities, mom who does the lions share of the cleaning, etc., etc. Sure, guys can step up and do more.... But make no mistake, it's mom who is ultimately responsible for everything to get done most of the time. So, sure, the big promotion with the higher check is great, but companies are not interested in candidates who can not work late/on weekends, relocate, and so on at a moment's notice. Most moms just don't have the flexibility to do it all. The big raise, essentially, would go to hiring someone else to raise your kids for you. Life is short and no money can buy back the time you could have had with your kids that you chose to sell to your company instead.

June 18 2013 at 12:42 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to silverfawn's comment

Thank you for pointing out that the "extra money" would only be used to obtain hired help, because that is exactly what I was thinking while reading this article. For a woman to be in such a position in the workplace, she would have to hire a maid, nanny, etc., to do the thing she would no longer be able to keep up with. Someone has to clean the house, do the laundry, cook dinner (at a reasonable time), help with homework, etc., etc!!! Those chores do not get done all by themselves nor do they get done by the business woman who has to be in an office 12+ hours a day. It just isn't feasible and I find this article very appalling at the thought that it is okay to just do what you want without pointing out the trade-off's that will most likely come from taking that big promotion!

June 18 2013 at 10:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

See this:
"'s interesting to see the proportion of women who think their primary contribution to their children should be time, not money. Many promotions come with reasonable raises, which would also, presumably, benefit the children" - what person of a sound mind can believe that money can replace mother's quality time with children? Most probably such type of thinking is behind today's young generation attitude - greed, entitlement, violence and more.
This sounds really creepy...

June 17 2013 at 4:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

4 in 10 may be breadwinners, but 2.5 in 10 are single mothers. Also, you would be surprised to see how many people (men and women) who are comfortable in their current position and not willing to make the sacrifice sometimes required for career advancement.

June 17 2013 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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