Have you ever been told you weren’t fit for a job before you even applied for it?
Has someone in a position of power ever suggested you wouldn’t rise to the top because you couldn’t “do it all?”
How would you respond if someone excluded you from a promotion simply based on your age and presumed life choices?
We know it’s illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on a woman’s lifestyle. But what about when you do it to yourself?
How often are you skipping out on opportunities because you’re trying to “plan ahead?”
It’s a frightening reality for millennial women. We launch our careers in aim of big, ambitious goals, with dreams of our future children hiding in the back of our minds. Before long, our visions for having a family “one day” impact nearly every decision we make.
It’s like we’re preparing ourselves for this inevitable trade-off we’ve come to accept simply because the social norms suggest doing so.
In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg writes, “From an early age, girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good mother.”
She goes on to share a story of a young female employee who sits down with her one day and asks about how she manages to balance work and family. After sensing her urgency in the subject matter, Sandberg asks the woman if she and her partner are considering having a child. The employee responds, saying she does not have a husband, adding that she “doesn’t even have a boyfriend.”
And yet she was already prepared to make decisions that would have a significant impact on her future career, even though her goals for having a family were still far off.
“Women usually start this mental preparation well before trying to conceive, several years often pass between the thought and the conception, let alone birth,” writes Sandberg.
Why Are We Limiting Ourselves?
Our early career experience is one of the most influential times in our working lives. We’re learning new skills, building professional relationships, and navigating the seas of self-discovery. We know the path ahead is untried and undefined. In today’s working world, a five-year plan is extremely difficult to predict. “Most businesses don’t even know what’s going to be required in two or three years,” says Joseph Weintraub, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Babson College.
We can’t afford to stop reaching for opportunities. At least not before such a halt is necessary.
In order for female leaders and entrepreneurs to get more out of our careers, we have to be willing to chase after it. Because the reality is, we don’t know what the future will bring.
We need to stop sacrificing today for a tomorrow that doesn’t even exist yet.
Because if we don’t, in 10 years, we’re going to be asking ourselves: “What if?”
So stop cutting yourself short. You deserve the chance to realize your full potential. And if you don’t take the steps now, you may never know what you are truly capable of.