Can Women “Have it All”?: Women Executives Share their Thoughts

Posted on March 10, 2017

Curious whether work-life balance is possible? Hear from women leaders at Capital One on how they approach it and why it shouldn’t just be an issue for women in the workplace.


Start talking about the challenges that women face in business and it’s not long until the conversation turns to whether it’s possible for women to “have it all.” In the latest piece from our Women’s History Month conversation series with women across Capital One, we ask for their thoughts on this controversial issue.

Let's talk "having it all." What does that mean to you on a scale of 1 to eye roll, and how are you doing?

"Having it all to me is about being happy and content in your own skin, which I am. I don’t believe I have settled for anything, but I also know I have made some conscious decisions that others might not approve of, but were the right ones to make at that point in time for me and my family. If I can wake up every day and be proud of the woman I am, but also know my husband, my mom and son are proud of me, I feel like I have it all." – Clary Leffel, Senior Director, US Card Brand Strategy

"I must confess, I am always a bit disappointed to be asked this question. Why is work-life balance an issue for International Women’s Day, and discussed in the context of women in the workplace? This should be just as much an issue for men in the workplace, and until it is then we will not achieve fairness at work or at home.

That said, when I think about work-life balance, I think it helps to remember that our working lives are very long, from our 20s into our 60s and beyond. Across that long span of time, there will be periods when work is front and center, and periods when family, service, or hobbies will be a bigger focus. I think it’s tempting to look for balance day-to-day, or week-to-week, and of course that is important for our emotional and physical wellbeing. But that’s not the only way to think about balance. There are times when I have really needed to make my children my priority and where I’ve made the decision to work less or be in a less demanding role. And there have been times when I have chosen to lean in at work. I knew when I took this role that it is a very demanding role, and the time is right for me to take it on because my youngest is about to head off to college.” – Diane Lye, SVP, Technology – Enterprise Data Services and Architecture

"It means that you can prioritize what is important when it’s important. Of course, both your work and your personal life are important at all times – but I think ‘having it all’ means that you are the person making the choices about how you allocate your time in one versus the other in a given moment—not anyone else." – Mili Mittal, Senior Director, Card

"I recall a commercial growing up that implied a woman could work, be a mom, fix dinner, and be a great wife – all at the same time and all on the same day. I believed it then and tried to do it all – and I felt like a failure when it didn’t seem possible. And then I realized it was a myth. You can have what you want – whatever your definition of 'all' is. It just might not be all at the same time. When I realized that life has phases, and you will have different experiences in those different phases, I stopped the guilt. And I found those around me – my children, husband, parents, associates, bosses – were incredibly supportive of what needed to be prioritized on any given day, as long as they all were my top priority when they needed me to be." – Julie Eberfeld, SVP, Commercial Bank CIO

What about work life balance--is it even possible?

"I do think it’s possible, depending on your definition of balance. For me, I don’t view work life balance as having an equal amount of time at work and at home every day. I view it as an ebb and flow thing – there are times when my work will require more attention, and times when my personal life will need more of my mind share and presence. On the whole, it’s more about flexibility and give and take at the right times versus some ideal state to be achieved. The key for me is having flexibility and also having support in both parts of my life (from Capital One and my husband) to flex and step up when the balance of my attention needs to shift to one domain vs. the other." – Mili

"I think it’s possible, as long as we all understand that it won’t be perfect balance all the time, but the full aggregate of both. It’s also for me not about time, but quality of time and making every moment count. Sometimes work needs you more and it’s OK to lean more towards work, as long as you know you can lean back out again when life needs you more." – Clary

"If I’m honest, I find it harder to let go of the feelings of guilt and stress even when I rationally understand the math. Ultimately this is why it’s so critical to understand my definition of success. For me, success is a lot more than how many hours I spend in the office each day. It’s about the impact I can have while I’m working, and the kind of family member, friend and coach I am when I come home." – Lauren Connolley, VP, US Card

How do you do work-life balance, and what’s your advice for other women?

"I try to make every minute count in both areas, and have made some choices that work for my family. For instance, I make a point of cooking a hot breakfast for my son every morning (which I don’t achieve particularly when I have to travel early), and sitting down to eat it together; for dinner, we go out to eat every night, because the time I would spend cooking dinner is time I’m not spending talking to him about his day or just enjoying his company. He is almost 3 and goes to sleep before 8pm every night, so I try to maximize his awake time. Once he starts going to sleep later, I’m sure I will be making other choices that fit us." – Clary

"For me, it's more about Work/Life Integration and making choices about devoting more time to your career, at times and home, at others. When my children were young, I took the opportunity to work part-time and spend more time with them, which meant passing up a promotion, but that was the right decision at the time for me to achieve optimal integration with work and home life. Now that my children are grown and out on their own, I’m placing more emphasis on work than I have in the past, because I truly love working in technology and delivering business solutions, as well as working for diversity and inclusion." – Julie

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Colleen Krieger, Senior Manager, Brand
Colleen Krieger is Senior Manager of Digital Brand Strategy at Capital One.

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