I'm British but really more of a nomad. My dad was a diplomat whose job took us all over the world, so perhaps it's not surprising I ended up a journalist. My mother battled rigid diplomatic traditions and the demands of four children to carve out a portable career as a writer. Isn't it funny how we repeat those patterns? I always knew I wanted to work, I guess I learned it from her. I also knew instinctively that I didn't want a sixty-hour week and no time with my kids. I moved to Washington, D.C., from Tokyo in 1996, and since then I've worked part time, full time, and not at all. I've tried them all, and finally I've got a great setup where I work on average thirty hours a week as a TV reporter. Those other hours? I guard them fiercely for my own four children.
I always knew I'd work. My father was a professor who never doubted our abilities. My mother was a small-town schoolteacher from Texas who quit her job when my sister and I were born. I'm not sure she regretted it, but almost every day she was alive she made it plain she wanted us to have meaningful careers, and be in charge of our own destinies. As a mother, she was wonderful, creative, loving—forever whipping up seven-layer cookies or papier-mâché dragon costumes. I remember reveling in knowing she was always there for me. I want that for my children, but I also want my career. In my twenties and early thirties, as a reporter with CNN in Moscow and Washington and around the world, and then covering the White House for NBC, I was childless and confident that a family would somehow just "fit in." My move to Good Morning America coincided with my first pregnancy, and suddenly my entire view of the world changed. My gut would clench every time an out-of-town assignment (which I used to live for) came up. It still does! Once I finally confronted my changed ambitions head-on, it wasn't simple for me or ABC, but the company has been remarkably open to helping me find a different role.
This book is not just our story. We've interviewed dozens of women and their employers across the country and across professions who've pulled off the same thing.
"I was so nervous. I couldn't believe after all my years and stature that I was going to ASK for a demotion," remembers Robin Ehlers, a sales manager with Pillsbury at the time, whose success convinced the company to say yes to her demands for a virtual office and who still decided to take a step down to spend more time with her children.
Sarah Slusser, a senior executive with a Virginia-based energy company, had a revelation just as she was about to move her family to New York. "The Wall Street offer seemed like a dream— but then I realized—it wasn't my dream." Instead she used her years of credit with her company to combine senior status with flexible hours and more time with her boys.
Womenomics is, at its very essence, a philosophical, even spiritual approach to getting things right. In work and in life. (And it's something the corporate world needs as much as we do these days.)