A generation after many prominent feminists encouraged women to “have it all,” we continue to decry the absence of women in politics, business and other positions of power. At the same time, even though there is more opportunity for women now than ever before in history, some professional women argue that we can’t or shouldn’t want to have it all.
But is it really too much to have a prominent career and a family? Must we make just one choice to tip the balance of power?
I don’t think so — women can have it all, and here is how:
1. Define what “having it all” means to you. Like many women, I didn’t want to work so hard for someone else that I wouldn’t have time for a family. Not only did I want to have a successful career and a family, I wanted the freedom to do the kind of work I pleased.
Yet working for a branding firm in Manhattan, I found myself staying late and coming in on weekends to represent products and companies I didn’t believe in. I was frustrated. I realized that what I wanted most was more control over my hours and over the people, companies and products I worked with.
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2. Strike out on your own — gradually, if needed. If you want to avoid what Anne-Marie Slaughter calls the “time macho” of male-dominated corporate culture, why not start a business or a freelance career?
Like any major transition, owning your own business can be a gradual process. After several years of working for a company, I had enough confidence in my work as a graphic designer to strike out on my own and start freelancing. While freelancing, I developed relationships with businesses, potential clients, and other entrepreneurs who wanted to partner with me.
I developed an interest in branding and eventually in how alternative forms of cause marketing could alter the marketplace (and people’s lives). Slowly but surely, I found my way and gradually built a life of freelancing into a business.
3. Make your own rules. Maybe you can accomplish the same amount of work in 50 hours that others can in 90 hours. Maybe you work better from home; maybe you work better at night. Maybe you are more creative if you get enough sleep and spend time with your family. Maybe you want to measure success by results rather than how much time you have logged. Or maybe you think your employees will do better work if you treat them well.
In a world where you set the rules and the measure of success, it is possible to create an alternative culture. It is possible to stop asking to be part of the game (or trying to fit into the game) and start your own game instead.
Over time, I was able to choose clients and associates who shared my vision of a business in which success would be measured by more than revenue, a business that would help make the world a more humane place.
I still work hard, but I choose my own hours, and all my work fuels a vision I have for my new company Maiden Nation — a community devoted to the idea that women can live the lives they imagine for themselves.
You can live the life you imagine, too. The first step is knowing what that looks like.
With degrees in Anthropology from Columbia University and Design from Parsons, Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown represents a brand development vanguard uniting global, technological, and social concerns. She has introduced leading international brands, like Sony Ericsson, into the North American market. Additionally, Elizabeth has founded many sustainable branding initiatives including Choose Haiti and launched this Fall, Maiden Nation. She is the co-founder of Maiden Nation and studioe9.com.