When Having It All Means Having It Later

Janet Yellen Takes Oath Of Office As New Chair Of The Federal Reserve

Liza Mundy sees the late-in-life rise of Janet Yellen as evidence that “women’s careers have a different trajectory than men’s do – and that women may be defining a new career trajectory for everybody”:

One emerging insight, among those who study work-life issues, is that women’s careers may peak later than men’s do. That revelation could prove immensely helpful for families:

If women – and men – re-orient their thinking to accept that significant achievement can, and should, occur well beyond mid-life, they may be able to strike a work-life balance with less dissonance and tension. Life is long, and we now know that parents who dial back their work hours when their children are younger can still ascend to the highest career heights. There is a lot of work life left, after all, when the nest empties and the college tuition bills roll in.

It’s a liberating notion, really, to think that you don’t have to accomplish everything in your life – or “have it all” – simultaneously; that leaning back during one life stage doesn’t preclude leaning in later. Along these same lines, any number of workplace experts and career gurus are urging women to think of their career not as a “ladder” but as a lattice, or a jungle gym: Horizontal moves are followed by upward ones, followed by horizontal ones, etc. It may take longer to get to the top, but it doesn’t mean you won’t reach it eventually.

(Photo: Janet Yellen smiles after being sworn in as Federal Reserve Chairman by Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel Tarullo on February 3, 2014. By Mark Wilson/Getty Images)