I first heard Sheryl speak about this to a graduating class at Stanford, and it subsequently became the focus of a column she wrote for Fortune. In our conversations about it, her voice rises in passionate frustration. Time and again she has seen highly talented women turn down challenging career assignments because they are thinking about having a baby. Not that they actually have a baby—they aren't even pregnant. It's merely that they are thinking about it. And this thinking turns to planning, and the planning leads them to the conclusion that now isn't a good time to take on anything new. Sheryl's advice: Enough with your planning. You are on a fast career track right now, doing as much and earning as much and wanting as much as your colleagues, so stay on this track for as long as you can, and wait to see what unfolds. At some point you may have to interrupt your career with the demands of motherhood. But if you want your momentum to sustain and your skills to stay relevant, and your pay to reflect this, delay this interruption for as long as you can.
The data backs upSheryl's assertion: Women still earn on average 85 percent of the salary of men who do the same work. But according to the research of professor June O'Neill, almost all of this difference is not due to outright gender discrimination—it's because during any given 15-year period, women average more than twice as much time out of the workforce as men. Their reduced wages reflect this.
"Let go of what you don't love." - Billie Williamson, senior partner, Ernst & Young
Billie Williamson is a senior partner with Ernst & Young, and as it happens she is also the head of inclusiveness for E&Y North America. She began her career in the firm's Dallas office in the late 1960s. To give you an idea of how things have changed, when she had her daughter there wasn't a single daycare facility in Dallas that would take a child younger than six months old.
Her advice to any woman just beginning her career: Learn to let go. She tells me, unrepentantly, delightedly, that her daughter's childhood photos are not arranged perfectly in a numbered series of scrapbooked albums. They're in a box. "At some point," she laughs, "I might get around to putting them in an album. Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just hand them to her one day and say, 'Here you go. Here's your childhood. You arrange it however you'd like.'"
She is, she says, the queen of outsourcing. House cleaning, grocery shopping, kid's birthday parties—all outsourced. You can't do everything, so don't fall into the trap of trying. Instead, find the moments in each aspect of your life that invigorate you, and imbalance your life toward those. (To help you find those moments, take the Strong Life Test.)
How to become a leader