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Can Women Achieve Work-Life Balance?

Have women been thinking about work-life balance wrong all along? (VCU Libraries/Flickr)

What does it take for women to achieve a work-life balance? (VCU Libraries/Flickr)

Lean In, the controversial blockbuster by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, came out in March and has been leading the New York Times bestseller list ever since. It’s been called a new feminist manifesto that encourages 21st-century women to ‘lean in,’ meaning to try harder to self-promote and to lead. But Sandberg’s manifesto has also triggered some pretty powerful backlash, particularly from people who argue that the main problem lies not in women themselves, but in the inflexible workplaces that were designed back in the Ozzie and Harriet era.

A new book called The Orange Line explores different possibilities for women to achieve work-life balance. Co-author Jodi Detjen, a professor of Management at Suffolk University, says women are holding themselves back because of what she calls the ‘Feminine Filter”.

“You can have it all,” says Detjen. But women need to change their expectations of themselves. “They have to let go of being perfect and doing it all.”


Jodi Detjen, author of The Orange Line and a professor of Management at Suffolk University.

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  • J__o__h__n

    How do women have time to read all of these books telling them how to balance their time?

  • Boston_mom

    I only caught a brief portion of this show, I’ll admit, but I found myself yelling at the flowery words emitting from my radio. This might’ve flown pre-recession, but certainly not in this environment. My husband works long hours and no, he cannot pick up my children at 4 p.m., nor can he coach my daughter’s soccer team, because there are hard realities at play here. My job earns a fraction of what his job earns. This dragging economy has exacerbated the disposable employee concept, and it’s constantly being dangled in front of middle management workers who do make an effort to actually spend a vacation without working, for example, or picking taking short days to spend extra time doing the mundane activities with kids. Jodi’s language expressing that we should change the way we value our jobs and focus not just on the money they earn is as sweet as it is completely naive to the realities and struggles that exist in today’s working environment.

    Hilarious, J_o_h_n, I will be the first to say that between working full-time from home and caring for my family, I’m certainly not among the women reading self-help books on efficient use of time.

    • jdetjen

      Boston_Mom – actually I agree that money is important. Our book talks about that a lot. In fact, when women drop careers completely it can be quite damaging to their ability to ramp back up when a recession layoff occurs. So ignoring the finances of what we make is detrimental. But the point I was trying to make on the program was that we should value our jobs as equally important. The system is never going to change if we enable our spouses to work non-stop by doing everything for them at home. Then we just perpetuate the current system. The other way we can do this is through other means of support. In our interviews, women used carpools, family, opted out of extensive kids sports, paid for help, etc to ensure they could accommodate their career and home needs. So what I hope is that we can step away from the assumption that because our spouses make more than us, our career is therefore less important. Instead, let’s say both our careers are important and then figure out how we meet those objectives.

      • Boston_mom

        Hi Jodi: Those are good points, and I apologize for having leapt to conclusions when all I heard was just a snippet of the segment. Actually my husband’s position (along with others) was just eliminated, so I’m hyper-sensitive to the earning issue at the moment. I shouldn’t have taken that out on you or your book knowing so little about your message. We could’ve afforded for me to lose my job, but cannot afford for him to lose his. He also has always pitched in a ton around the house, even though he was not often able to leave work at 4 p.m. We’re newish to the area so the support network has been a bit slow to evolve, but seems to be moving in the right direction. Definitely my career is not less important. But my paycheck was exponentially less important. I suppose to your point, it’s exponentially more important right now given the circumstances.

        • jdetjen

          Boston_mom – sorry to hear about your husband’s job. I get it (had the same thing happen to us a couple of times too). That support network is key. Finding women who can help you figure out solutions made a huge difference to our interviewees and me personally. I wish you and your family good luck in this challenging time.

          • jdetjen

            And Boston_mom – feel free to connect with me personally if you’d like to talk more about this. jdetjen@suffolk.edu

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