Women are no strangers to hard work. While things have improved economically for American women since the 1970s—when women gained the right to open credit cards in their own name, for example—there are still major inequities, and COVID-19 didn’t help. Many women working in service roles or who did not have the option to work remotely were laid off or had to shoulder additional caretaking responsibilities for children or older relatives. Women still disproportionately take on daily household tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning.
In addition, the American gender wage gap has steadily hovered around 80% for two decades. The average American woman earns 82 cents to the dollar a man earns, no matter her level of education. While pay disparity for Asian American women has improved during that time, it remains steeper for Black and Hispanic women, who earn an average of 70% and 65%, respectively, of what their white male counterparts earn. While narrowing the pay gap worldwide could add an estimated US$7 trillion to the global economy, experts think it could take over 100 years to reach parity.
With all of these hurdles in her way, how can any woman carve out a fulfilling career for herself while also having a life outside of work? This is a question the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network works to solve monthly.
On February 28th, I jointly hosted our latest meeting with fellow Senior Principal Carey Geaglone on the topic of having a career and having a life. We were joined by Erin Selfe (VP of IT, PA Lumbermens), Bonnie Wasgatt (Former CAO, F&G), and Kimberly Wilson (AVP, MetLife), who shared their perspectives on maintaining work-life balance.
Here are the key takeaways from our discussion:
Define What Work-Life Balance Means to You
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance involves learning how to best meet your own needs while maintaining a fulfilling career. This balance is less about splitting your days evenly between your work and personal life; it’s about having the flexibility to get work done while still having time and energy to enjoy your life.
Our panelists noted that learning how to set boundaries and non-negotiables at work can help you manage expectations and set you up for success in both your personal and professional life. All agreed that in their experience, managers can be very accommodating to changing personal and professional needs. Having open and transparent discussions with your leadership about boundaries can help maintain expectations as you move through your career.
Learn How to Ask for Help
According to the Harvard Business Review, women and people of color often face greater work-life balance challenges, but asking for workplace flexibility can often jeopardize their career prospects. Learning how to ask for help can not only give you more time to focus on what’s important to you, but it can also be a great opportunity for others to learn and grow. Leadership involves delegating, coaching, and providing new opportunities to others while still taking responsibility for the outcome.
All of our panelists agreed that while asking for help can be difficult, doing so is a key factor in achieving work-life balance. One panelist noted that a critical thing she learned was to let go of the need for everything to be perfect. When accepting help, it’s important to learn to let people help to their standards, not necessarily to yours. Learning to separate the things you need to do from those that can be tasked to others can prevent an imbalance between your work and personal life.
Role Models Come in Many Forms
As you move through your career, sometimes the negative experiences can be just as impactful as the positive ones. This is especially true as you advance to more senior roles. Learning how you don’t want to be can shape you as much as finding aspirational leaders can. One panelist mentioned that she frequently learned from others and their experiences how she wanted to handle situations as they arose.
Our next Aite-Novarica Women’s Network virtual meeting will take place on March 29th at 11am ET, on the topic of “Mentoring in Insurance” led by Aite-Novarica Group Senior Principal Deb Zawisza. More information is available here.