Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Should Women Give Up the C-Suite for More Flexibility?

This week for USA Today I wrote about a new survey by More magazine showing that three-out-of-four women say they would not apply for their boss' job, partly because of the pressures that go along with it. The survey also found that 43% of the women surveyed say they are less ambitious now than they were a decade ago. And only a quarter of the 500 women ages 35 to 60 say they're working toward their next promotion. (See the complete story here.)

For the story I interviewed More's editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour, who said she was "hoping and praying" that the survey results were more a reflection of the difficult times in this country today, and not part of a permanent trend.

I've been a reader of More for many years, so I know that Seymour has been an advocate of mentoring younger women. She says that women who have been through other recessions need to be counseling younger women that these bad times will pass, "and tell them that we know it's a crappy time, but people need to just show their mettle and hang in there."

Still, Seymour notes that it's also a difficult time for more experienced women to find the time to mentor younger colleagues. "I think everyone is pressed to the max," she says.

She says she believes that one of the reasons that only 25% of the women report they're working toward their next promotion is because of their disillusionment with what is happening in many companies today.

"You've got one-third less staff, one-third less funding and people getting thrown out of their jobs," she says. "And, somehow, these companies are still expecting us to win. So why bother?"

Seymour says she believes many women may be telling themselves to "just sit here in middle management, collect a paycheck and look for flexibility."

For my story, I interviewed Tiffany Willis (whom I found via Twitter, by the way), and she outlines her reasons for leaving her high-pressure corporate job for one of self-employment. NBC Nightly News followed my story last night with one of their own on the survey, interviewing women who gave similar viewpoints to Willis.

The bottom line: Women contend they're making the right decisions for them and their families, and have no regrets.

But women like Seymour, who have risen through the ranks to great success, worry about the future. I asked her what she planned to do as a result of the survey.

"I think we'll start to bang this drum and talk about the dangers of sitting back in middle management," she says. "We all need to talk about why that's not a good idea to just let the guys run the show."

What's you take on this survey? Should women give up the corporate corner office?


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