It may be a “man’s world,” but now, more than ever, it’s women who are running it. Nowhere is that more evident than in the increasing numbers of women in traditionally male-dominated STEM fields.
And yet, despite the significant progress that has been made in recent years, a substantial gap persists both in the overrepresentation of males in technology and computer science and in gender-based pay discrepancies.
What that means is that the women who are working in STEM aren’t just building a career, they’re also blazing a trail for those women and girls who will come after. But you don’t have to be in the science or tech fields to feel the pressure to have it all: a beautiful life, a successful career, and a perfect image of the well-rounded professional woman for other girls to aspire to.
The truth is, though, that trying to live up to some idealized image of the perfect woman with the perfect career and the perfect home life just means that, sooner or later, both your personal and professional lives will suffer.
You can have it all, but not in the way you might have thought. Having it all, in the real world, means letting go of the fantasy of perfection, and building a life that accepts, and honors, your human limits.
No question about it, women have come a long way since the women’s liberation movements of the 1970s. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have a long way to go. In fact, no matter how much education a woman may have or how demanding her work may be, studies show that women still bear a disproportionate amount of the household and caregiving duties.
And it’s not just in the home that traditional gender roles continue to prevail. The modern workforce is still deeply divided along gender lines, especially in STEM fields. Women, especially women of color, are still perceived to be less proficient in math, science, and technology than men are.
But if you’re trying to build a healthy, happy, and well-balanced life, one that includes both a fulfilling career and a satisfying personal life, then you have to stop feeling like you have something to prove. It’s not your job to right the wrongs of the world. It’s not your job to change people’s minds.
Your job is to craft the life you love. Your job is to find professional fulfillment and personal joy in your life and in the people you love. Your job is to find not just balance but harmony between your work and your personal life, which means throwing away any burden that does not contribute to that harmony.
The rest is gravy. But it’s good gravy because when you stop focusing on proving your worth, on bucking the stereotypes, on being a role model, guess what? You’re going to end up doing all those things, and more, more naturally, peacefully, and effectively than you ever could have when you were wearing yourself out trying to swim against the tide.
Just by being the best and happiest you, personally and professionally, that you can be, your light will automatically illuminate the path for future generations to follow.
Building a happy career and a happy life in harmony with one another means that you need to think holistically. A job offers stability, sure. And that consistent source of income and benefits is vitally important, especially in a time of so much uncertainty.
But it’s not enough to just tolerate your job, especially if you’re going to be spending the next years or even decades of your life there. The question is whether your job actually contributes to the kind of life you want.
That doesn’t mean you have to be absolutely in love with your job, leaping out of bed each day before the alarm even sounds just because you can’t wait to start the day and get to work. If having that kind of relationship with your work isn’t what matters to you right now, then think about what does matter.
What do you want most for your life, and what kind of work will help you get there? When you start tackling those kinds of questions, you might realize that the work you’re doing now isn’t actually giving you the life you want.
You might even find, for instance, that you can’t build the kind of work/life harmony you want where you’re currently living. Maybe relocating can offer a lower cost of living so that you’ll get to work less and be home more. Perhaps a new city can offer a shorter commute. Or perhaps a different town might offer the kind of job opportunities that will make you fall in love with work after all.
The point is that “having it all” means having the courage to take a long, honest look at your life and your goals. And, having done that, you may well find it’s time to shake things up a bit, to get rid of the obstacles that are preventing you from living your best life, to make the changes that can make all the difference in your world.
Having it all doesn’t mean chasing perfection. Having at all, above all, means finding harmony. It means understanding what you want, need, and value right here, right now, and then ensuring that your work and your home life are in line with those values. Above all, it means ensuring that your job works for you as much as you work for it.