I will graduate from Tuck in five months - and as a female MBA student, I feel pressure to find a job with work life balance. I've noticed that this goal of "work life balance" isn't so much something I am seeking but something that other women think that all women must ultimately pursue. If you don't seek work life balance, you are somehow typecast as a bad wife, bad mother...etc. Ironically, the people that typecast you as the two headed dragon - a bad wife and mother - aren't men. In fact, it's most often women that push other women to pursue less challenging jobs in the name of work life balance.
Sheryl Sandberg did an excellent job addressing this issue in her 2011 commencement speech at Barnard College:
"I have deep respect for my friends who make different choices than I do, who choose the really hard job of raising children... These are choices that you may make some day, and these are fine choices.
But until that day, do everything you can to make sure that when that day comes, you even have a choice to make. Because what I have seen most clearly in my 20 years in the workforce is this: Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce. It doesn’t happen that way. They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there. Maybe it’s the last year of med school when they say, I’ll take a slightly less interesting specialty because I’m going to want more balance one day. Maybe it’s the fifth year in a law firm when they say, I’m not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I’m going to want kids eventually.
These women don’t even have relationships, and already they’re finding balance, balance for responsibilities they don’t yet have. And from that moment, they start quietly leaning back. The problem is, often they don’t even realize it.
If several years ago you stopped challenging yourself, you’re going to be bored. If you work for some guy who you used to sit next to, and really, he should be working for you, you’re going to feel undervalued, and you won’t come back. So, my heartfelt message to all of you is, and start thinking
about this now, do not leave before you leave. Do not lean back; lean in. Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision. That’s the only way, when that day comes, you’ll even have a decision to make."
Once I watched this video I realized that I too had started quietly leaning back.
Last year I took an internship with a top consumer goods company that was known for its work life balance and is rated one of the best places for mothers to work. When I accepted the offer, those seemed like good selling points to me. However, once I started working there I found the work to be unchallenging and was perplexed by the culture. The office cleared out by 5pm everyday, no one worked weekends and my boss spent an unusual amount of his desk time planning his son's little league games. After working in a fast paced career pre-MBA (which I loved), I just didn't get the appeal of this 9-5 role. Reflecting on this experience, I realize I had somehow leaned back and convinced myself that a place that 'mothers like' is the place for me. I don't even have kids. So why was I making career choices around children that I may or may not ever have?
As I move forward with my full-time job search, I've realized that I must be true to myself and my dreams. I didn't come to Tuck with the ultimate goal of finding "work life balance". I came to Tuck to develop the skill set and network I need to pursue what I'm passionate about - and that's exactly what I intend to do.
Here's to leaning in and keeping our feet firmly planted on the gas pedal!