October 9, 2013
The Work-Life Balance Conversation – Benefit or Barrier?
Do women need to stop talking about work-life balance? The notion was raised during a WICT Leadership Conference panel this week titled, “Leaning In: How to Take Your Seat at the Table.”
AMC Networks communications EVP Ellen Kroner suggested work-life balance conversations should be had with peers and friends, but not really in the office. “Men leave when the conversation” turns to the subject, she said. Comcast Cable evp, CFO Cathy Avgiris expressed a similar opinion, warning that men also have to balance the two but don’t talk about it.
But Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for the book Lean In, disagreed, drawing a round of applause from the audience. “I don’t think you should say, ‘don’t ever talk about it.’ It should be allowable,” she said, pointing to findings that in two-income households women handle 40% more childcare and 30% more housework. “I feel like it is unfair that women shouldn’t be talking about it.”
Cooper, a sociologist at The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford, said that a fundamental barrier for women in the workplace is that they experience more work and family conflict. The good/bad news? A recent survey found the gap in work/life conflict is becoming more equal for men and women. That may mean men may be more willing now to discuss the issue, she said.
Other takeaways from the panel, moderated by “Inside Edition” anchor Deborah Norville, included a call for women to be more decisive. Women are known more for being consensus builders. Avgiris said to push for action she created something called a “GSD Team,” as in the “Get Shit Done” team. Similarly, she said women need more confidence when it comes to applying for stretch assignments. “Men apply for that next assignment when they believe they have about 60% of the skills. Women wait until 100%. Maybe even 110%,” she said.
Kroner talked about how she had moved from a “people pleasing” person to a “people counseling” person,” particularly as a communications exec who has to sometimes tell business leaders things they don’t like. “This is not personal,” she said, crediting AMC Nets CEO Josh Sapan’s support for helping her to make that shift.
BendBroadband pres/CEO Amy Tykeson said the biggest key to where she is today is simply speaking up. “In a lot of meetings, people don’t say a whole lot,” she said, encouraging the audience to be “the person asking the question that maybe everyone has but doesn’t have the courage to ask.”