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Finding Balance as a Female Leader
Although we have access to more career and business opportunities today than previous generations of women, the challenges we face as female leaders have not diminished in proportion. By being bold enough to ‘want it all’ in our personal and professional lives, we face intense scrutiny over not just our performance at work, but also how well we balance the many roles we choose to take on. This is just as true for the high-profile CEOs or politicians as it is for the solopreneurs serving a handful of clients. No degree of ‘having made it’ in life gives you immunity from that kind of judgement.
Moreover, what is presented to you as a world of ‘equal opportunities’ does not really take into account the price you have to pay to be part of the system. Many women simultaneously juggle family responsibilities or are even forced to sacrifice their personal ambitions because they lack the support they need outside the workplace. As a result, work-personal life dynamic becomes an either/or choice for some.
It’s about more than spinning plates.
If you resonate with this, then perhaps you also feel that same pressure of making it all work. Our struggle with balance goes deeper than just the challenges of keeping various plates spinning. I know from coaching women who work in male-dominated industries that they face constant pressure to prove themselves and their position in the hierarchy. This, in turn, forces them to appear invulnerable.
They feel they have to do it all because of the need to show others that they can handle it. Sometimes they forget to or become reluctant to reach out for support, taking advantage of collaborative ways of operating, like we are naturally inclined to do as women. They are then likely to struggle and be overwhelmed in the short term and burnout as a long-term consequence.
As a leader, you are often forced to make difficult choices with respect to how you spend your time. But we rarely talk about the guilt that comes from having to choose between either your work or your personal life. Especially as this often requires you to let someone down. In working late, you are saying no to time spent with friends and loved ones. In going offline during a holiday, you are saying no to your team, who normally rely on you for answers. Then there is also the guilt you face when carving out some downtime purely for yourself. So there can be consequences too when you attempt to seek balance.
So, what should balance look like?
The concept of work-life balance implies that your life has to be neatly divided into slots for different aspects of your life. But perhaps, we have been using the wrong measure. Balance should never really be about how much free time you have. It might be that you give your time to many different expressions of yourself: whether that might be as a professional or entrepreneur, a mother, partner, friend, or community organiser. None of those aspects should ever sound like they compete with another.
I find it far more helpful to bring the concept of balance to the personal. By being aware of how balanced you feel at any given moment. Because this makes wellbeing sound less like another list of things to do. But it also allows you to tune in to just what you need, when you
do not have the luxury of a spacious schedule: some quiet time for yourself, a warming meal, a workout, a phone call with a friend or just a hug from a loved one.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should allow yourself to experience and enjoy all of those things, without guilt or judgement. Or even the need to make it all work perfectly.
About the Author
Name: Ishwariya Rajamohan
Professional Title: Business & Lifestyle Coach
Bio: Ishwariya Rajamohan is a coach and educator, supporting female leaders in enjoying the work they love, while also having time and energy for the people and things that matter. She has trained and worked both as an architect and a pastry chef. In 2016, Ishwariya founded Love Letters to Chefs, an educational platform helping Hospitality professionals enjoy sustainable careers in the industry.
Social Media Handle: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ishwariya-rajamohan