Women should stop looking for the perfect work-life balance and instead seek to integrate the two areas of their lives.
Society tells women that their lives should be perfect and balanced but this often isn't the case, says Teresa Taylor, chief executive of strategy consultancy Blue Valley Advisors and author of The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success. The idea of balance often implies that work and personal responsibilities must be attended to equally, she says. When women can't achieve this balance, they often get discouraged and leave the workforce or slowdown the progression of their careers.
Taylor, a former chief operating officer at telecommunications and media company Qwest, decided to write her book after meeting with women who were constantly seeking advice on how to balance their lives.
"You shouldn't look for balance and you shouldn't try to be two people," says Taylor, who is also a director at First Interstate BancSystem (FIBK) in Billings, Mont. "Instead you should blend it all, even your calendar so you don't feel like you are being pulled apart."
This may mean that some days are more focused on work while other times are centered on family responsibilities, she says. Regardless, it's important to be mentally attentive to the task at hand, whether at home or at the office, and to manage time effectively, she adds.
Women also need to focus more on networking and be willing to volunteer for assignments. Taylor secured her board seat at the $7.6 billion-asset First Interstate after networking and letting her contacts know that she was interested in board seats. However, female executives shouldn't get discouraged if they fail to see immediate results. It takes a while to get the word out — and board seats aren't always available.
Women should also recognize what expertise and skills they can bring to the table when joining a board, she adds. For example, Taylor had worked at publicly run companies so she was able to help First Interstate through that process when it decided to go public in 2010.
Taylor also serves on the boards of T-Mobile USA (TMUS) and NiSource (NI), an energy company that provides and storage and transmissions for natural gas and electricity.
"Getting on a board is like looking for a job," she says. "A lot of women haven't translated what they can bring to the table. We don't like to toot our own horn but you need to."