Can women really have it all?

While men are (finally) stepping into their roles and supplanting the work of high-achieving women, it is still not the norm

By Shraddha Barot Amariei

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Published: Sun 26 Mar 2023, 9:01 PM

It is a question that has been debated heatedly for years. Women have made significant strides in terms of equality in the workplace but numbers show that only 3 per cent of female leaders make it to top positions in the Middle East. And yes, women have it harder. But mostly because of the way we are biologically wired.

In most cases, if not always, women tend to be the primary caregivers when raising a family. And while men are (finally) stepping into their roles and supplanting the work of high-achieving women, it is still not the norm. From the same vantage point, women have to overcome insurmountable obstacles as they shoulder the responsibilities of highly demanding careers and families.

For the longest time, women needed to act like men to rise to the top and put their maternal instincts aside as they marched on, putting everything, including their families, on the back burner, as was expected of their male counterparts. Even today, despite the multi-faceted advancement in working cultures around the world, the expectation still remains largely the same. And the perceptions about people who value their families aren’t too great.

The reality is that most women still face significant barriers to achieving a truly integrated life — one where they are progressing professionally while remaining fully committed to a holistic family life. Rigid working environments, unsupportive managers, and long working hours all contribute to this. Sometimes the pressure to succeed both professionally and personally can feel overwhelming, leaving women feeling stretched too thin and still failing. Even with helpful partners and access to affordable childcare, the endless demands of modern life, and work and school schedules can be gruelling.

On top of that, women are often judged more harshly than men for their parenting choices, their appearance, and their professional performance. And the pressure to excel in all areas of life all the time can take its toll and emerge in the form of burnout, anxiety, and depression.

This brings us back to the original question. Can women really have it all? The answer is not that straightforward. For most women, true balance is an elusive idea. At best, women, particularly working mothers, can strive to find a better work-life integration that gives them the freedom to focus on both work and family

While it’s easier for men to put aside their familial concerns and throw themselves into work, it’s not always the best-case scenario for women who have the natural tendency to prioritise families over professions — if they absolutely need to choose one. This is why women must show up in their careers differently.

For a working woman, this means having a flexible schedule, working weekends, working from home, and working ‘bizarre hours’, as I call them, when the children are asleep or before they arise. Flexibility can be a real game-changer and make women function optimally while not opting out on raising a family.

For me personally, living a full life has been my unwavering dream — an idea that became a commitment later in life and inspired life-changing decisions. Just like most women today, my career started with working crazy hours but it wasn’t long before I realised that if I ever hoped to enjoy a full life that integrated family just as well as career success, I had to choose a different path and that’s where entrepreneurship came beckoning.

Female ambition and full family life are possible and I believe that women can truly have it all but only when they have the flexibility to make their lives work better for themselves. Overall, as leaders or people in positions of power, we need to continue to push for and adopt cultural changes that support women’s ability to succeed both professionally and personally, without sacrificing one for the other. But ultimately, it’s important to recognise that every woman’s definition of “having it all” is different.

For some, it may mean pursuing a relatively low-key career with pay cuts to raise a family. For others, it may mean prioritising better work-life integration and changing careers if their original plans don’t support their idea of a content life.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, and it’s up to each individual to decide what “having it all” means for her. But yes, with the right frameworks and systems, I believe that women can actually have it all.

Shraddha Barot Amariei is Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer at White Label Media.


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