Concern about the long term state of the world, including the environment, and how to achieve work/life balance are among the top issues for women, suggests an international survey.
Women spend a significant amount of time and energy, often during working hours, working out how to achieve a satisfactory work/life balance, according to a survey of more than 400 women aged from 18 to 94 by Next Generation Coaching.
Many highlighted the stress involved in attempting to create this balance. Coaches can help their female clients analyze options for dealing with stressful situations, understand the physiological affects of stress, think about stressful events in a constructive way and learn to deal positively with negative thoughts.
The recession means longer working hours for many. The challenge for coaches is to help their clients to identify measures that will help them feel able to do this and engage fully during working hours, rather than being distracted by personal or home issues. This includes extending coaching into the family arena.
Women of all ages expressed concern about the long term state of the world and environment, suggesting coaches need to help organisations consider the business implications of this, say Kim Morgan, Sonya Shellard and Robin Edwards of Next Generation Coaching.
“Put simply, is it enough to be “green”, or do companies need to do more to portray an ethical image on company and recruitment websites to attract top female talent?” said Shellard.
Women attribute equal weight to the importance of home and work, suggests the survey. Respondents of all ages confirmed that career can simultaneously have both a positive and a negative impact on their home lives.
The survey underlines the importance of coaching the “whole person” when working on professional issues, stressed Shellard.
The survey highlights how women’s priorities change according to age, stage of life and career goals. One solution will not fit all ages or career stages, which is significant for coaches working with organizations on talent management and succession planning.
The survey underlines the importance of coaching the “whole person” when working on professional issues. Whether the coaching is around performance or promotion, getting to the crux of the matter means coaching around the client’s personal circumstances and aspirations. This will help clients to put aims and objectives into an overall life context, thus ensuring they are realistic, say Shellard, Morgan and Edwards.
“It is not by chance that the wheel of life/balance wheel is to be found in many coaches’ tool boxes!” said Shellard.
Next Generation Coaching asked women what they most enjoy and see as their greatest achievements in life. And what tends to be uppermost in their thoughts and about their greatest concerns. Two themes emerged:
Whether in their twenties or sixties, career and work appeared at the heart of women’s answers to all the key questions. All spoke of the challenge of pursuing a career and balancing this with home life. The nature and relative importance of various commitments alter with age, from caring for children to looking after aging parents, or simply having some free time for outside interests or to adopt a different lifestyle.
As one woman in her late 30’s put it:
“I get stressed about not being able to get everything done on time, whether at home or at work. Life is passing too quickly and I never leave enough time to do the things I want to do – like spending quality time with the children, my partner – well, just relax really and keep my sense of humour!”
Thoughts about career were frequently “double edged”. For example an important promotion would be celebrated, but also count as a concern as women puzzled how to juggle the commitment and energy required with the impact on home life.
Concern over the world economy, political state and environment
It is no surprise that the majority expressed concern over the state of the economy and “green issues”. Apprehension about funding retirement was cited by many, particularly in the 40 plus age group. Next Generation was struck by the heartfelt concern expressed by women of all ages about the long term state of the world and environment. One respondent said:
“I worry about where we are going as a country and the mess we are getting in! Not just this but the worldwide recession. I worry about my children’s future and what they will have to cope with, what the world will be like in 30 years time with terrorism and global warming. Closer to home I am concerned about the value of my pension and how I will fund my old age. Everything seems to be so volatile …”
Issues through the ages of women
20s – acquisitive/hiring decade
The majority found most enjoyment in securing challenging work, citing gaining qualifications and career success as their greatest achievement. This outranked relationships and socialising.
The main concerns were whether they would be able to “have it all” and about fulfilling their potential. Job security, everyday issues at work and future prospects occupied thoughts prominently.
30s – juggling/engaging decade
The emphasis shifts in this decade, with the ability to juggle career and family life successfully emerging both as a source of great satisfaction and as the greatest challenge. Raising families, gaining qualifications, career successes (such as promotion) and achieving work life balance were all important achievements.
Job security, identifying a fulfilling career, work problems and direction ranked alongside family concerns as the most pressing thoughts.
40s – reinforcing, rediscovery decade
The ability to identify a different kind of work, possibly in a new field, to fit with values and lifestyle resonated with this decade.
Raising a family and pursuing a successful career ranked as the top two achievements.
In addition to career choices and difficulty of working part time, women placed more emphasis on time spent worrying about debt and finances, in particular retirement funds. Health starts to worry women in their 40s.
50s – fulfilment decade
Women valued their independence and personal freedom resulting from the ability to work part time or change direction and fewer family ties.
The greatest achievement identified was financial independence/security and enjoying fulfilling careers.
Financial security and health in retirement became the number one concern.
60s – recognition decade
Women valued the opportunity to study and begin new careers. The ability to adopt a less stressful or desired job or lifestyle also featured strongly. Health and adopting a healthy lifestyle coupled with money and care in old age were the top concerns and women commented that they spent much time thinking about these factors.