Editor's note: A version of this post originally appeared in the September issue of American Banker Magazine.
Compiling American Banker Magazine's Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance ranking is a labor of love for our selection committee, because we believe that shining a light on 75 of the most influential, accomplished women in the field will pave the way for even more women to succeed, which is something that will benefit not just womankind but the industry as a whole.
I have another, more selfish reason for looking forward to this ranking each year. There is so much inspiration to be found in evaluating these successful women, and the detailed applications provided by our candidates contain many examples of smart, practical strategies that I would be wise to apply to my own life. I say life, rather than career, because many if not all of the women on our ranking would tell you that their success at work has not taken place in a vacuum. It is one piece of their lives lives that in some cases are filled with children, with aging parents needing assistance, with significant dedication to community organizations, or any number of commitments that go along with being a well-rounded citizen of the world.
One thing I found particularly striking in this year's application pool was the number of women who volunteered that they were the primary earner in their household. Indeed, in our annual survey of the women selected to our ranking, only 46 percent said they have a spouse or partner who works full time.
I can't envision adopting this particular approach given the dynamics in my own marriage, but I'm certainly intrigued by it. In some ways it's the mirror image of New York Magazine's March cover story about educated, affluent mothers who in the age of Lean In have made the decision to halt their careers and stay home full time while their husbands earn the money. As you might imagine, I can't envision adopting that particular approach either. But I'm a bit jealous of both groups of women, the primary earners and the full-time homemakers, because these women have figured out something important: when the roles in a two-parent household are clearly defined, at least everyone in the family knows what's what.
There's no need for those daily negotiations that may not take up much time but can really lay on the stress. You know: who can pick up the kids today, who's going to chaperone the field trip tomorrow and, oh yeah, what should we do about dinner tonight? A good sitter can ease the burden, of course, but that's also an invitation to allow yet another person's schedules and conflicts to enter the mix.
When the division of labor at home is not so clear, well, as a business acquaintance of mine so astutely observed recently, relationships with our partners become very transactional. And don't we get enough of the transactional at work?
Like many of the women in our Most Powerful ranking, I'm far from ancient but still from a generation in which few of my friends had two parents who both worked full time outside the home. I don't remember any having moms who traveled regularly on business, or dads who shared equally in the cooking, cleaning and child-rearing. Neither my husband nor I grew up with role models for this. And we're part of a cohort of parents who seem to put an ever higher premium on carving out quality time engaging with their spouses and kids.
So we juggle our careers and family life. We lean on each other. We negotiate.
My daughter at least will have a head start in figuring this stuff out. She has us. She has role models like the 75 you'll learn about in our ranking. My hope is that she can learn from our mistakes and also from our successes, and improve on the model when it's her time.
Heather Landy is Editor in Chief of American Banker Magazine.