Do women pay a higher price for success?

“The higher women climb up the corporate ladder, the fewer children they have, whereas the reverse is true for men. In the 41-55 age range, for example, 49% of the ‘best paid’ women are childless compared to 19% for men”. This statistic held my attention while reading a report on a research done by McKinsey & Co on gender diversity*. It appears that women are paying a higher price for success while making similar choices as men when they put career before family.

Reflecting back, this does not come as a surprise. Images of various exhausted and drained women I have met during my working years flash by. Many quit or take up less challenging jobs due to dual responsibilities or delay pregnancies or marriage to further their careers.

Does success bring happiness?

“I’ve taken up a less demanding job, and I’m happier”, one of my women friends told me recently. So, does corporate success lead to happiness? Many women I meet are content to pay the ‘price’ of not taking up promotions/ growth.  This is a function of their priorities in life, which they are able to successfully identify.

On the other hand, there are women who would like to see success in their careers and this gives them happiness.  Many of these women do end up paying a higher price, trying to do the balancing act. The truth is that managing home and bringing up children does take up a lot of energy – both physical and emotional, especially if the family is not supportive. To add to the challenges, organizations and social structures do not do enough to support career women.

3 things women can do

Much has been written about steps organizations need to take to support women and how this can help the organization grow. No doubt there are many things to be done here. However, what is interesting are the limitations that women impose on themselves down this journey. Three things women can do:

  • Networking to their advantage – Building relationships and reaching out for support, whether in professional or personal life
  • Investing in their skills – Learning new skills is always a plus and adds to confidence in one’s own capabilities
  • Seeking out a mentor/ sponsor/ coach to help them along – Having a mentor/ coach to support and help in the growth process.

Yes, while there are images of exhausted corporate women in my head, there are also pictures of confident, positive women who are able to enjoy their success.

*”Women Matter – Gender Diversity a Corporate Performance Driver”, by McKinsey & Co