Can Working Women Really Have it All?

Why is it that every time a women moves into a prominent position the debate begins again?

The debate as to whether working women can have it all has been going on since Eve thought she could have the apple and paradise. This week’s announcement of Marissa Mayer taking the helm a Yahoo, while being six month’s pregnant, has brought the debate to the forefront yet again.


Like Mayer, I too thought I could work through my maternity leave after the birth of my first child. I guess as older parents, we believe anything is possible. The reality of trying to do so is quite different. Of course having the financial resources to hire several full-time nannies may indeed make the impossible, possible.

Some people are holding Mayer up as an example of what is possible for today’s working women. I’m guessing Mayer must have told her potential employer she was pregnant before they offered her the job, as it’s pretty hard to ignore the obvious. I’m wondering how many other women have been hired just as they are about to go out on leave. I’m thinking the answer is not many or she or the media wouldn’t have even mentioned Mayer’s pregnancy.

I don’t know of many female executives, without substantial financial resources, who been able to have it all at the same time. It would appear that financial independence is the key to being able to do so, as the cost of reliable help these days is astronomical. Of course that all depends on your definition of having it all.

I hope that as Mayer takes the helm at Yahoo, she will look closely at the challenges faced by the average working parent in her company and make changes where necessary, so that everyone is provided the same opportunities that she has just received.

At the end of the day, each woman has to look at her own situation and decide if she is willing to give up time that she will never be able to get back, in order to keep moving her career forward. Let’s not applaud or fault Mayer for her decision. Let’s just support one another and hope that in the near future, the issue of a woman’s decision to try to have it all is no longer newsworthy.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions ( and author of the forthcoming book, The Magnetic Workplace and Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters. Download’s Roberta’s complimentary book chapter on How to Work with a Coach and a Mentor.


About the author

For more than 25 years, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies, including Best Buy, New Balance, The Boston Beer Company and small to medium-size businesses, achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. She is known world-wide as “The Talent Maximizer®.” Roberta, a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty, is the author of the top-selling book, Suddenly In Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, 2011), a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book For Leaders.