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September 26, 2004

Having it all

For a woman to "have it all" (i.e. an ambitious career, a loving marriage, well-adjusted children), it helps if her husband gives up his own chance to do so.

Betsy Morris, "Trophy husbands", Fortune, 2002 October 14.

Behind a great woman at work, there is often a great man at home....The men we're talking about carpool the kids, coach the soccer team, pay the bills, pick up the dry cleaning, and fix dinner.
Nobody has measured how widespread this phenomenon is among well-educated, high-salaried couples....[S]ays Doreen Toben, CFO at Verizon, "almost all the senior women [here] have husbands at home." So do many women at Sun Microsystems. Of the 187 participants at FORTUNE's Most Powerful Women in Business Summit last spring, 30% had househusbands. And of the 50 women on this year's list, more than one-third have a husband at home either full- or part-time....Anne Stevens says she knows of at least 20 women in her division at Ford whose husbands are home.
So maybe it's not only[?] a glass ceiling that has kept so few women from reaching the upper tier of corporate America; only 6% of the FORTUNE 500's very top jobs--senior vice president and above--are held by women, according to Catalyst. Maybe it's that not enough of them have the luxury most of their male counterparts have had forever [Perhaps "until recently" would be more accurate]: a spouse at home. A year ago, when Catalyst asked 3,000 women in their mid-20s to mid-30s to name the biggest barriers to women's advancement, 68% cited personal and family responsibilities. That compares with 50% who blamed lack of mentoring, 46% who said lack of experience, and just 45% who cited stereotyping of women's roles and abilities. "A precondition to having more women in positions of power is to have more sharing in [Read: transfer] the burdens of parenthood," says Dublon. "It is crucial."

Because the onus usually falls on the female half of a marriage, feminists have tried to deny the obvious benefit of having a parent devoted full-time to child-rearing and other duties associated with homemaking.
The dividends for these working wives--peace of mind, no distractions, the ability to focus single-mindedly on work--are precisely the ones their male counterparts have always had....That theme echoes all through the corps of executive women..."I'm more balanced and productive because I know [my daughters] are with [my husband]," [Lauri Shanahan, general counsel at Gap,] says. "It makes a huge difference"...."I don't know how people with two full-time, unforgiving careers manage the small stuff," says [Sarah Fitts, a lawyer with the firm Debevoise & Plimpton].

For better or worse, it is possible for these executives to be on call 24/7--which is still what it takes to get to the top at most companies...."Would I have reached the same position if I had gone home [from meetings that were supposed to end at 7 p.m. but lasted until ten]? That's a question I can't answer," says Dina [Dublon, CFO of J.P. Morgan Chase]. "But one of the criteria was your willingness to stay and do whatever needed to get done, irrespective of anything else in your life."
The higher you go in corporate America, the harder it is to keep two high-octane careers on track, especially when you have children.

The person who subordinates her family life to her work life will always professionally outcompete someone who won't. That's just the way things are and no amount of legislation can ever change that.
[A]mong the most powerful women--and many other high-level women--[househusbands are] a red-hot topic. They gossip about it. They marvel at it. They compare notes. They know which colleagues have husbands at home and which do not. They know which are married to doctors: Shelly Lazarus and Meg Whitman. (Doctors travel infrequently and can often set their own hours.) They are envious of women whose husbands have retired....Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard [says of her husband] "Frank has been a huge source of support. He had a very successful career and has lots of interests outside of me and my career. He has been a rock for me; I am tremendously lucky. To describe him as a stay-at-home husband is not fair to him." Frank Fiorina took early retirement in 1998 as a vice president of AT&T's corporate business unit.
When [the family of Pat and Steve Sueltz, both VPs at IBM] moved to California [so Pat could take a job offer at Sun Microsystems], Steve had no trouble finding a finance job at Siebel Systems. "New company. New job. Everything's booming," he says. But Pat was never home during the week, and Steve was rarely home on weekends. "We were losing Kathleen [now in seventh grade]," says Pat. "She was miserable." The Sueltzes spent several months debating what to do. Could one or the other get home earlier? Should one or the other switch jobs? Should Steve become a consultant to give him more flexibility? Ultimately, Steve made the decision to stay home--despite his pedigrees (Phi Beta Kappa at Occidental, Stanford MBA), despite his career success.
I don't know whether the author is oblivious or playing dumb, but the examples she cites establish a consistent pattern: alpha females marry - surprise, surprise - alpha males.

Feminism here has degenerated into an insistence that not only do women have a right to cake, but also an inalienable right to eat it. Feminists are contorting themselves to avoid acknowledging that a situation they lament (the dearth of women with corner offices) is best addressed by correcting the sexist attitudes of women.

The retired alpha males of this article are the exception, not the rule, and the typical career woman is not looking for a nice boy who'll stay home with the kids.

If a feminist sincerely wants to see more women in the echelons of power, then should she find herself giving Wellesley's commencement speech, she should enjoin her audience to, in the words of Jon Lovitz, "lower your standards".*

* Mr. Lovitz has apparently convinced former model and current plastic surgery abuser Janice Dickinson, who has described him as "one hot stud muffin". I offer my most profuse apologies for the mental image.

Posted by jeet at 11:12 PM