Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forget Ideal Work-Life Balance Former Executive Leads Lectures on Gender Issues

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Forget Ideal Work-Life Balance Former Executive Leads Lectures on Gender Issues

Article excerpt

Women: Forget finding the ultimate work-life balance.

Dede Bartlett, a retired executive at ExxonMobil and Philip Morris who raised two children while she held senior positions in corporate affairs and philanthropy for those Fortune 500 firms, said the concept of achieving harmony while juggling professional and home life is a myth that only exists in Hallmark cards.

"Let's eliminate the word 'balance,' " Ms. Bartlett said during a symposium about women and leadership Monday evening at Carlow University. "It sets everyone up for frustration and disappointment."

In fact, the stress that many women encounter trying to divide work and family is among the reasons there are still relatively few female chief executives and women in other top corporate jobs, she said.

When she started her career in the 1960s, Ms. Bartlett, 72, said she and many of her peers thought issues like providing affordable child care for all women and flexible work arrangements would be resolved by the time their daughters grew up.

"Unfortunately, the landscape hasn't changed that much," she said.

A study released last month by Catalyst Inc., a New York nonprofit that tracks women in business, showed women held 22, or 4.4 percent, chief executive jobs at Standard & Poor's 500 companies. In 2013, women held 14.6 percent of executive positions at Fortune 500 firms, a separate Catalyst study said.

Ms. Bartlett, who now works on initiatives including programs to end domestic partner violence and to promote science and technical fields to young women, is spending this week at Carlow as a Woodrow Wilson visiting fellow. Besides delivering 16 lectures to students on issues including leadership, the gender pay gap and workplace culture, Ms. Bartlett was scheduled to lead three evening discussions for the Carlow MBA program.

For Monday's symposium, she was joined by Atiya Abdelmalik, director of community programs and employee volunteerism at Highmark Inc. …

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