So friends, I went into a Panera yesterday morning to work on my corporate-mother novel. The plot needed some serious complicating, so I got myself a blueberry scone and a mug of strong coffee. I grabbed a booth where someone had left Monday's Wall Street Journal, flipped to the Management section and hoped I might find a nugget or two to help me with the novel's storyline. What I read got me so incensed that I had to write the letter below, which I emailed to the WSJ before I left that booth. If they print it, I'll let you know, but the nice thing about Media 2.0 is that I don't have to wait for them to share it with you. I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments. If you want to send your own letter (or cut and paste mine in solidarity), their email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing in reference to the McKinsey study discussed in the Apr 4 article "Coaching Urged For Women" by Joann S. Lublin and posted Apr 3 on the WSJ's The Juggle blog.I have a Masters in Business from an Ivy League university and have managed employees and clients in more than a half a dozen countries during my career in marketing and advertising. I handled business initiatives representing tens of millions of dollars for my employer and clients. I've been a client to both Bain and McKinsey. For McKinsey to posit that "female ambition declines sharply at middle age" is not only insulting, but it is a dangerous and presumptive statement to make on behalf of all women.
Let me propose another possibility: women channel their ambitions differently at middle age in order to allow time to be with their children, and perhaps even their aging parents. In some circles, we have called this the "mommy track." Whatever we want to call it, time with children is time a parent only gets once in a lifetime. When parents figure this out and adjust their career track, do we say that their "ambition declines sharply"? The McKinsey study, at best, takes an extremely narrow view of ambition. I left my six figure salary and management position at a major financial services firm in Manhattan to channel my ambitions into writing novels and developing a career as a writer, frankly something that has taken much more ingenuity and stamina than my years in Corporate America. In the past 18 months, I've completed a full-length novel and had lunch with my kindergartner every Thursday. No amount of executive compensation, leadership accolades, or professional recognition could have satisfied me like that has.
Ladies and Gentlemen of McKinsey & Company, ambitions do not decline, they shift. You cannot "coach" a person into the CEO or senior executive suite if that is not a path they desire. I would expect a newspaper like the Wall Street Journal and a firm like McKinsey & Company to take on this issue with more circumspection. This study has done a terrible disservice to ambitious women everywhere.
Melissa T. Romo
Hoboken, New Jersey