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I found your article very interesting and forwarded it to a few friends of mine who, like myself, have had a glimpse of the top and took a pass... for now. Women generally have responsibility on two or more fronts: work, home, and children. Each requires focus and commitment. However, the degree to which this focus is given ebbs and flows with circumstance. As a result, the prerequisite for success in each endeavor is flexibility. Most executive positions fail to offer the type of flexibility conducive to success in any endeavor other than corporate leadership.

Truly successful leaders must be 100% focused and totally committed to task. Failure is not an option for the truly competitive. Truly completive women do not like to fail on any of the three fronts in which they are required to play. Without the flexibility to address circumstances as they arise, women will fail. This creates a huge conflict within a women because success in business does not compensate for failure as a mother or visa versa.

Your article describes how successful women have created an environment for themselves where they do not fail on any front. It's not that women are not competitive, it's just that women prefer to control the game to meet our circumstances and define our own version of success. As a result, the basic motivator for success has been satisfied and we do not fail. Women have faced the fact that yes, we can have it all... we just cannot have it all at the same time.

Once the children are gone and we are solely responsible for our own lives, some of us may be willing to compete against the big boys for position. However, then we will have to face age discrimination rather than gender bias. Oh well, their loss, since we'll just start our own businesses and compete against them. And this time, we're playing to win.

Katherine Gauntt
Tax Manager, National Service Industries

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A version of this article appeared in the February 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.