HR & Management

Published

Five famous female leaders on balancing work and time spent with family

7 Mins

It comes as no surprise that mothers feel discriminated against at work. In fact, a study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that around 54,000 mothers could be forced out of their jobs each year because of discrimination in the UK alone.

But here’s the thing: Mayer is a CEO – and her ability to run a company while expecting and already having a child has been a much-debated topic.

However, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki – a mother of five kids – is of the belief that being a CEO mother is easier than being a mother further down the ranks. “There were more challenges when I got started,” said Wojcicki. “My nanny was my first employee; that’s a difficult person to manage. It’s more emotional than it is in the office.”

Wojcicki explained that you not only have fewer resources and less cash when you’re starting out, but you don’t have any management skills either. “Now I have really good management skills, which I have developed from being at work,” she said. “For work I have to delegate. At home I got better at finding people who could help me, so I can focus on the things that are important: the kids when they need me and the kids and their homework.”

She claimed that her desire to be home for dinner with the kids made it difficult in the beginning because she was more reluctant to go to evening events. But the desire to cap her workday has also helped her to prioritise. “I have to optimise the time I’m in the office and I have to focus on the highest priority things first,” she said. “In some ways that’s helped me because it has aligned me with Google trying to do something very quickly.”

Read more about female leaders:

Because mother on the lower rungs of the ladder have fewer choices, they are more likely to drop out of the workforce., she said.

In an interview with NBC in 2014, Wojcicki was asked whether she would be taking YouTube’s 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Though she hasn’t kept to herself in terms of how she balances work and family, there are plenty of male leaders who have big families. So why is Wojcicki being asked about family dinner? 

But men aren’t exempt from the limited nature of time. In 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was asked the same questions that Wojcicki received.

Reporter Della Cava wrote: “The tech world never turns off, but Nadella confesses he tries to do just that whenever he can – especially when it comes time to focusing on his wife and their three elementary school-age kids. ‘I would say it’s a constant struggle, but I prefer not to think of work-life balance as a balancing equation, but just something where you find harmony,’ he said. ‘When I am with my kids at home, I am really there’.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been known to wield a lot of influence – and her constant stance on the matter makes her a perfect example.

Sandberg has admitted that she leaves work daily at 17:30. However, it tells a lot that it’s only been in the last two years that she’s been “brave enough to talk about it publicly.”

It’s not the first time that she’s shied away from the spotlight. In her book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead'” she explained that she was named Forbes Magazine’s fifth most powerful woman in the world in 2011.

“I thought it was absurd,” said Sandberg. “My mother even called to say, ‘Well, dear, I do think you’re very powerful, but I’m not sure you’re more powerful than Michelle Obama,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Of course I’m not more powerful than Michelle Obama!’

“I was really embarrassed,” Sandberg said. “People would congratulate me in the halls at Facebook, and I would literally tell them why it was silly. People would post it on Facebook, and I would call them and ask them to, you know, ‘Can you take that off? I really don’t feel comfortable.’

“My assistant pulled me into my conference room and closed the door. And she said, ‘You’re handling this really badly. Stop telling everyone who says congratulations how silly that list is, because you look insecure. You’re showing everyone how uncomfortable you are with your own power, and that’s not good, so just start saying thank you.’ “

She tells this story to highlight the issue of confidence and stereotyping. Stereotype threat means that the more we’re aware of a stereotype, the more we act in accordance with it, Sandberg explained.

“So, stereotypically we believe girls are not good at math,” she said. “Therefore, girls don’t do well at math, and it self-perpetuates. If you ask a girl right before she takes a math test to check off ‘M’ or ‘F’ for male or female, she does worse on that test. The reason there aren’t more women in computer science is there aren’t enough women in computer science.”

It is this same stereotype, she stressed, that places women into an “either/or” situation when it comes to work and family – not “and”.

Share this story

BlackBerry eliminates enterprise mobility threat – by acquiring it for $425m
Togethera: Securing angel investment from serial entrepreneurs
Send this to a friend