WORK-LIFE BALANCE / APR. 12, 2014
version 2, draft 2

Is Work Life Balance Only For Men?

There is no lack of successful female executives in the hallowed corridors of the American professional world. The US, and indeed the world, has given us a long list of women executives that have rocked the world of business. But a rather depressing article in the Harvard Business Review clearly states that male executives still believe that women should manage family issues. Bottom line – most men still believe that when it comes to work life balance, it is only for them.

Men's Vs. Women's Perceptions on Family Issues

As part of the study, between 2008 and 2013, almost 4,000 C-suite executives were interviewed by Harvard students. 40% of the interviewees were women and both the men and women executives more or less had the same job titles. The interviews were studied by Prof. Boris Groysberg along with his research associate Robin Abrahams and they came up with those startling facts. What is utterly striking is the fact that even women think that family issues are their prerogatives and not their spouses’.

There is a distinct difference between men and women when it comes to perceiving the importance of spending time with family. Men tend to think themselves as breadwinners. So, when they are not able to give time to their children, this perceived role alleviates their guilt. Women, on the other hand, feel guilty when they cannot spend time with their children because of the pressures of their professional lives.

What is more disheartening is that men admit that they don’t prioritise time for families and are happy that their spouses take care of this front. Working mothers and full-time executives feel happy because their spouses don’t ask them to give up their jobs and take care of the family.

Working Fathers Cannot be Devoted Dads

Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro Limited, one of the largest Indian IT companies, wrote an interesting article a few years ago where he mentioned that in the Indian job market, bachelors are seen as more hardworking because they can afford to spend more time at work. The moment they get married, it is considered that they have lost that steam and passion. Unfair and mythical, but taken as truth, working fathers have revealed over and over again that they cannot afford to become more doting dads because of lack of flexible working hours and prejudices from bosses and colleagues. But in this entire discussion about lack of work life balance for men, everyone tends to forget about women executives.

Till the time men rule the business world, there doesn’t seem to be much that one can do about this concept of work life balance. When someone is ready to put in those insane hours at work, their bosses favor them over others who are either not willing to or able to put in similar numbers of hours. And these bosses all belong to the category of male executives that feel that home issues are for women only.

If there comes a time when more women executives rule, it will be interesting to see if this notion of work life balance is only for men changes. Till then, the professional community will need to carry on with this depressing fact.

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