PTA conference or client briefing? Before you half-heartedly pick the latter again, stop and think. Women exactly like you, are changing the way the office works.
Something wonderful happened the other day. I was with a friend—a jet-setting lawyer and alpha mom—when her assistant called up to schedule a sudden meeting early the next morning. Without batting an eyelid, Sukriti Chawla, 38, Mumbai, announced that the meeting would have to wait until lunch hour. Her reason: she couldn't miss the PTA meet at her daughter's school the next morning.
I know many mothers across the world who wouldn't dare to put a PTA meet above an important work meeting. A few years ago, Sukriti wouldn't have either. The fact that Sukriti is near-enough to the top of her firm, undoubtedly made taking this decision easier. "When I started working 15 years ago, there wasn't much in the way of work-life balance. I couldn't dream of pretending to have a life outside work. We postponed having a baby for the longest time due to my crazy work schedules. I don't want new entrants to feel the same pressure," says Sukriti.
Madura, 31, from London echoes Sukriti's sentiment. "Women need to change their attitude, for things to get better. We've got to stop pretending that our families don't exist. If I have a toddler, I will have regular visits to the paediatrician. Why should that be a hush-hush thing?" Madura heads a team of 12 advertising executives, out of which 5 are women. "All it takes are a few minor adjustments and advance planning. I've missed only one fancy dress competition in the last six months. The other mothers have missed none," she says proudly.
Increasingly, women in positions of power are talking about their family commitments. And these commitments are important considerations in the way they manage their workday. Senator Pat Murray of Washington State, recently, in an interview in The New York Time's proudly told the reporter that women today feel comfortable enough at work to say if and when meetings have to be rescheduled due to dance recitals and soccer games.
It's clear that women all over the world are angling for change. But the question remains: Can enough women like Sukriti, Madura and Senator Murray rise to the top, to strike that much-coveted work-life balance so that lesser-powerful women can benefit from it? They can, if women currently at the top start making changes in their own spheres of influence—however big or small they might be.
Share with us the changes you've made in your own workplace to make time for family commitments. Or tell us what changes you'd like to see in the organisation you work for. If you'd like to consult our HR expert to help you juggle your roles better, write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.