Mary Kay Learns "What Women Want" - Part 4

05-22-2009 2:04 PM

Another of the "10 Things Women Want Now" is a fulfilling career.  We heard from some stay-at-home moms in the US that they feel adrift when their kids no longer need them every minute of the day, and wonder if they should have continued to pursue their careers or completed their educations.  Latina women in the US felt that a career was a vital part of being a "complete, modern woman". The Chinese women we heard from were well aware of the trade-offs of their careers, and few were completely comfortable with being stay-at-home moms.  They seem to need a modern, autonomous view of themselves, apart from their family.  This same desire for an element of autonomy drives women in Ukraine and Russia to pursue a career.

This sense of autonomy seems to be relevant regardless of culture or geography.  Our careers are a very important part of our identity, and are significant contributors to our overall sense of independence and completeness.  What seems to differ regionally is how long this has been important to women.  In the US, it's well into the third generation, and some may even say four.  However, in Eastern Europe, this phenomenon is barely a generation old.

I think this aspect is at the very center of the on-going challenge that women have in finding balance in their lives. On one hand, a fulfilling career is part of who we want to be, yet it comes with many trade-offs that impact other areas of our lives that are equally, or even more, important.  I have been off-balance many times in the past, and found myself struggling with deciding what I needed to do to get things flowing smoothly again. The answers were never immediate, easy or win-win.  They were tough choices.  I'm sure I made some bad ones.  But sitting where I am now, things turned out okay in spite of that.  That doesn't mean that I wouldn't have made some different choices if I had known then what I know now.  (I'm not sure I will ever understand why we get the wisdom after we make all the mistakes!)

When I was growing up in my Mary Kay career, I learned from watching the other women around me.  Apparently, others do too, as evidenced by our research.  These women told us that they model themselves after other successful women for their own roapmap to professional success.  (I will also tell you that some of my greatest learnings came from watching women that I DIDN'T want to behave like.) Women who appear "put-together" and "complete" are the most revered, and their advice is trusted.  I was blessed to be able to watch and learn from Mary Kay Ash herself, as well as our many female sales leaders who gave me plenty of positive examples for female leadership in business. 

Now, as a tenured professional woman, who has survived managing family and career as I was climbing the corproate ladder, I know one thing for certain.  I know that my career filled a very important role in shaping who I am.  It gave me an identity that I alone owned, separate and apart from my identity within my family.  I know for certain that, had I not had the career that I have loved for the past 25 years, I would now not feel as complete and fulfilled as I do.