The Atlantic's cover story this month by Anne-Marie Slaughter has erupted with passionate discussion about the trade-offs women make with careers and families. It's a great article (warning to all those who say they don't have time to read—it's a long article), and one that I feel many in the meetings and events industry can relate to.
In a follow-up blog entry, Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, writes about a 2011 commencement speech by Sheryl Sandberg, a person that Slaughter writes about in her article.
"As the president of Barnard College, though, I must take issue with her characterization of Sheryl Sandberg's 2011 commencement address," Spar wrote. "Far from reproaching young women for failing to try harder, Sandberg enthusiastically urged them to seize their potential, their energies and their ambition. Not only were our students deeply inspired by her words, they were inflamed by her passion and by her obvious concern for their lives and careers."
Sandberg is Facebook's COO, and she was telling the students be ambitious and to push harder, Spar writes.
"Like Slaughter, Sandberg also tiptoed into the treacherous area of guilt," Spar wrote. "But while Slaughter's piece focuses on the more obvious guilt women face both in leaving their children to attend to their jobs and leaving their jobs to attend to their children, Sandberg spoke more obliquely about the guilt women feel even in taking jobs that might, someday, force them to make these trade-offs."
Spar goes on to comment about how men don't feel this guilt, or at least they don't show it. According to her, today's woman is obsessed about trade-offs and misgivings.
"I worry, frequently, about the swamps of guilt my students will encounter," Spar wrote. "I worry about the quest for perfection that we, their teachers and role models, have so lovingly thrust upon them. And I worry that we are not giving this generation of young women what they really need: a promise that they will be all right."
The jobs in our industry are predominately held by women. As meeting professionals, they're being asked more and more of their time, especially as meetings are being recognized as primary economic and creative drivers. Because of this, trade-offs are certain, but should you feel guilty about them? And if you're a mentor, what advice are you offering to young women entering the industry?