Why Do We Keep Asking the Wrong Question?

Recently, there’s been a lot of press around the question: “Can Women Have It All?” Much of the buzz has been ignited by Ann-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Monthly Article, “Why Women Can’t Have It All” and by Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer’s decision to continue working after her child is born.

In my opinion, it’s the WRONG QUESTION—a question that invites frustration and confusion among young women in business aspiring to top corporate positions. I’ve seen it over and over in the faces and attitudes of potential managers in our TEAM program. Let’s not forget that it’s a sexist question, as well. No one seems concerned about whether men can have it all. When Jeff Immelt became CEO of GE, no one asked or cared.

In my mind, the question we should be addressing instead is “Can Women DO it All?” and the answer is a resounding “No!” Not only can’t they do it all. They shouldn’t do it all… and they shouldn’t want to.

Yet, talented, motivated women in business seem obsessed by Perfectionism. Too many of them believe they have to do it all 100% —personally and professionally—or they’re not good enough. It’s an invitation to failure and an attitude we at WOMEN Unlimited, Inc. are determined to eliminate through our business mentoring programs. The talent drought created by women throwing in the towel because of impossible expectations has potentially devastating consequences, not just for the women themselves, but for their organizations.

To overcome this striving for perfection, it’s crucial to reconcile: “Can Women have it All?” with “Can Women Do It All?”  They are in fact intertwined.  At our WOMEN Unlimited business mentoring programs, women learn a variety of skills that bring these two questions together. We show them that by prioritizing goals and expectations —both personal and professional—they CAN achieve them. Throughout our business mentoring programs, we help women in business develop alliances, within and outside their companies, so they know how and where to turn for guidance and support. We help them learn that doing it alone is counter-productive to corporate success.

In other words, our participants discover that by defining what they want, focusing their talents on those goals and eliciting the help and support of others, they can have all they’ve set out to accomplish without doing it all by themselves. If they make mistakes along the way – they’re learning experiences, not character flaws.

One more critical question: What’s your opinion?  Please share your point of view and your experiences below.

Rosina L. Racioppi
President & Chief Executive Officer
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.