Can women really have it all? Industry pros weigh in on ‘leaning in’

Juggling career, kids and relationships can be a full-time job. Credit: moodboard
Juggling a career, kids and relationships is hard work. But is it impossible?
Credit: moodboard

The ongoing debate about the modern career-minded woman was brought to the forefront again with the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”: Can women really have it all? The perfect home, the darling children and the bustling career — can they be successfully juggled? And why is “having it all” a problem only women seem to have?

At a New York Women in Communications panel discussion on female leadership last week, women at the top of their game offered their opinions on the matter and advice for women trying to balance it all.

“You can’t expect perfection,” said Cathie Black, the former chairwoman and president of Hearst Magazines (who, by the way, abhors the phrase “having it all”). She referenced Oprah Winfrey’s popular “Live your best life” quote, noting the importance of the word “your” in there.

“Life is about imbalance,” she added. “There are choices you make.”

One of those choices might be accepting that you can’t do it all. Jeanine Shao Collins, executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Meredith 360, recommended that future leaders “be willing to delegate, and be OK with it.” And Black added that hiring a nanny to watch the kids isn’t going make them forget who their parents are.

Dustee Tucker Jenkins, vice president of public relations for Target, spoke on the importance of saying no and being in a career you truly love to help ease the daily burdens. She recalled quitting her reporter job on the spot after she was sent to cover a murder case and realized journalism wasn’t for her. She also emphasized the role that others play in helping you achieve your personal and professional goals. In her opinion, she said, to “lean in” means to “grab the hands of the women next to me. For me it means trying, failing, getting better, growing.”

Debra Shriver, senior vice president and chief communications officer at Hearst, echoed that sentiment, encouraging attendees to “be engaged, be direct, be in the office when you’re in the office, but have a 360 life.” She recalled attending a meeting she wasn’t invited to (and ending up running it!) and joked that “on some days I lean in so much [that] I need to lie down.”

Career tips from Cathie Black

Black is one of the most respected bosses in the biz. Take her advice and watch your career soar:

How to ask for a raise: “You have to have a reasoned approach,” she says. “‘I need more money’ — that is not my problem. Look at the results: Have you done the job really well? Then you can ask for something.”

How to stand out in meetings: Black calls the corner seat “the dead zone of the table.” Speak up! “If you are going to show up, you are not a visitor — you are a participant in that meeting.”

How to get ahead: “We’re so polite, wanting to be liked,” she says about women. “Let’s push that paradigm upside down. I don’t think it’s about being liked. You’re really not in the job to find your new best friends.”


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