An industry has been created to help respond to the age-old question: “Can women have it all?”
Almost ten years ago, in 2013, we first heard Sheryl Sandberg’s self-coined phrase ‘lean in’, encouraging women to lean in to opportunities that put them in a more equitable position in their careers – to not be afraid to ask for a raise or promotion, and generally know their worth, and demand what that entails. In 2016, Paradigm for Parity was founded to to achieve gender parity in corporate leadership by 2030. Since then, organizations like Chief, have been founded to give C-Suite women the place and space they need to build networks and grow as leaders of their own.
As I reflect on this on International Women’s Day, I am eternally grateful for the efforts of these women – and those who came before them – who have provided guidance, made space, and advocated to help advance other women. Few efforts are more than helping to elevate other women.
And, while I believe women can have it all – I know that for so many, including myself, it has come at a cost. We are on double duty all the time.
Since my mother’s generation, women have come a long way in terms of what is available to them at a professional level. Gone are the days that the only careers available to women are teacher, nurse or secretary. Today, women are CEOs and pioneers of companies at an increasing rate, and I could not be more excited for what that means for our future, but also for my own daughter.
With that said, that “cost of having it all” remains high. Even women who make similar salaries as their male partners, or who are the breadwinners in their family, often still bear the brunt of household and/or childcare duties. A successful career might mean being less present in a child’s life, or being unable to care for an aging parent, or even lacking the time to find love and nurture a romantic relationship, or simply being prohibited from doing anything for yourself.
I want to be clear that I believe women can have it all, I am just looking forward to the day society sets women up to not only have it all, but supports them in the process.
The COVID-19 pandemic shined a bright light on the ways in which our society has failed to provide for or support women. Within the first three months of the pandemic, 3.5 million mothers left the workforce due to childcare or caregiving responsibilities as well as layoffs and furloughs. The loss inspired a movement, the Marshall Plan for Moms, to center mothers in the economic recovery of the country, providing financial support to mothers for the labor they provide at home. And while the workforce is recovering, and a million women returned in 2021 – we are not yet where we were pre-pandemic.
I keep coming back to the resilience of women. While countless individuals quit their jobs in November of 2021, women used this momentum to their advantage – to not only rejoin the workforce, but to ‘lean in’ and ensure they were getting what they wanted. Unlike a year ago, or in March of 2020, there are many jobs available, and most companies have taken a fresh look at salaries and benefits to gain a competitive hiring edge. Women make up 66% of the insurance industry, for example, but there seems to be a dearth of women leadership roles.
All I can say is: now is the time.
Now is the time to ask for that promotion, to make a lateral move that may have greater dividends in the long-term, and to advocate for yourself and for all women to get ahead.
At Spring, we are proud to have incredible female leaders. As Managing Partner and co-founder, I faced a fair amount of adversity to get to where I am in the insurance/financial sector. Thus, I wanted to create a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion when I ventured out to start my own consultancy.
For one, I have always fought for pay equity, fair hiring and advancement practices at Spring. Karen English, Spring’s Senior Vice President, has joined me on that journey. Karen brings in some of our biggest pieces of business and is a well-known thought leader in the leave and absence management space. She even plays an HR role within Spring, and does it all while raising two teenage kids, for whom she prioritizes basketball games and science fairs.
Then we have Teri Weber, Senior Vice President, who is a true queen of all trades – from internal IT help, to driving our health and welfare accounts, to being a rockstar speaker, an amazing baker, and an attentive mother of two teenage girls.
We are fortunate to be living in a time where there is so much support and advocacy for women to have it all, and I am proud to lead a company that helps to advance that effort. But so much more is needed.
More support and networking opportunities must exist for women early on in their careers and women who cannot afford expensive membership dues or exam fees. More organizations need to pledge pay parity. More organizations need to prioritize training and mentorship, with the goal of fostering honest dialogues and creating an atmosphere where employees feel supported and safe in speaking up and advocating for themselves. We need a sharper focus on communications, and employee engagement – for women and men.
As I look forward to International Women’s Days to come, I am committed to working toward building a society that doesn’t just allow women to have it all, but supports them in getting there.
Until then, let’s keep fighting the good fight!