The media is on a feeding frenzy after former high-flying investment guru and executive Mohamed El-Erian, who once managed a 2 trillion investment fund, revealed he quit after his young daughter issued him a list of 22 things he has missed.
“Earlier this year I left behind the privilege and intellectual stimulation of working with extremely talented colleagues and friends at PIMCO and instead opted for a portfolio of part-time jobs that requires a lot less travel and offers a ton more flexibility—enough, I hope, to allow me to experience with my daughter more of those big and little moments that make up each day,” El-Erian reveals.
Which made me think about all my bright, successful female friends who opted out of the corporate game for the very same reason. And all the female leaders and trailblazers who took a bow from the high-life to focus on their families.
Right now, I can’t think of one that made headlines around the globe.
Maybe because there was no media frenzy. Not even a little backstory in the company newsletter. Unlike their trailblazing entrance into hard-fought leadership roles, their exits were unsurprisingly quiet. Perhaps because even in present times, it’s a sad truth that there’s nothing newsworthy nor confounding about a woman quitting a big gig in her childbearing years. The 9-5 worklife which evolved during the industrial revolution is still the benchmark in this current age of technology. Contrary to John Maynard Keynes’ prediction in 1928, technological advancement hasn’t brought work hours down from 100 to 15 hours per week. In some workplaces, staff are expected to be “on” around the clock.
And while (some) women have broken the proverbial glass ceilings, little progress has been made to address the needs of family life and the gender roles currently played.
Except in Scandinavia.
They test ideas like a six hour workday, pay dads to stay at home so mum can go to work and have a gender quota enforced by political parties that resulted in women holding 45% of parliamentary seats.
The news of El-Erian quitting to spend time with his daughter is apparently huge and everyone is talking about it.
So forgive me if I expect changes afoot: for leaders and politicians to finally see (and take action) that work-life balance is a serious issue working parents struggle with every single day. And women have been picking up the slack for a little too long.
Here is a an excerpt of El-Erian’s post on Worth.com.
” About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something—brush her teeth, I think it was—with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded, and I wouldn’t have had to ask her multiple times; she would have known from my tone of voice that I was serious.
She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments.
Talk about a wake-up call. The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. And the school year wasn’t yet over.
I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos…
But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point.
As much as I could rationalize it—as I had rationalized it—my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.”