No, it's not powerful men, and it's not the struggle for work-life balance. Here's what you're really up against.
What's the No. 1 enemy of women in business?
It's not their male-dominated C-suite. It's not the Barbies they played with when they were growing up. It's not even their work-life balance struggles.
It's the judgement of other women.
Yesterday, as I sat on the train to work after rushing to get my daughter to school on time, I stumbled across an article titled "Why I Feel Sorry For Marissa Mayer's Baby," by Rene Shimada Siegel. After discussing her choice to create a company that supports telecommuting, the author judged Marissa Mayer's personal choices--from her two-week maternity leave to her in-office nursery. Of course, this piece is not alone in its judgmental sentiment. Just look at the backlash to Sheryl Sandberg's new Lean In movement. And rest assured, it's not just women criticizing women who are at the top of their careers; we criticize women who stay at home, too.
It's funny, other women have helped me IMMENSELY throughout my career, and female mentors are the key to some of my success. But as much as women help each other succeed, we often are each other's worst enemies.
When I had my first daughter, I was a very successful sales manager, making a six figure income. I worked more tham 30 miles from home. I would get home at about 7:00 at night, just in time to tuck my little girl in. One day, when I was dropping her off at daycare, she grabbed onto my leg and said, "Please Mom, don't go."
I didn't. I resigned the next day, and asked a current client if I could consult for them on the side around social media. They said yes. It was a drastic lifestyle change, and significantly less money, but I was thrilled to have more time with my baby. That was my choice at the time.
My little consulting gig turned into a bigger consulting gig, which turned into one of the fastest growing social media firms in the country. I had another baby, but this time, it was while I was working on building a rapidly growing startup. I had to work very hard to prioritize my time. Today, I have two daughters, ages 5 and 9. I don't work from home, even though at this point in my career, I certainly could.
At every single step in my journey, whether I was working around the clock to make a career for myself, working from home and enjoying a slower pace, or running a startup and doing the ultimate balancing act, I found articles that told me I was doing it all wrong. I was too career focused--no, wait, I wasn't career focused enough. I should choose quality time over quantity with my children. Hold on, quantity is everything. From articles circulating the internet to looks on the playground, judgement is everywhere. And unfortunately, much of that judgement comes from other women.
The sad fact is this: whatever you do as a parent, in business or at home, there is likely someone who "feels sorry for your baby" because of your choice. And the biggest tragedy of all is when that judgment actually influences the women's choices in their careers. So what can women do to feel confident in the decisions they make regarding their careers and families?
It's pretty simple. You do you.
It's one of my favorite newish hipster phrases. To me, it means this: Do what works for you, and support women who do what works for them. Our collective confidence will help us succeed better in business, as parents, and as women overall.
Do you think women are holding other women back in business? Share your thoughts here.
CARRIE KERPEN is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, which she grew from a husband-and-wife consulting firm into a global social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency. She led her team to more than $15 million in revenue and landed the agency on the Inc. 500 in 2011 and 2012. @CarrieKerpen