Editorial: Can working women have it all?

I’m about to embark on the most exciting and terrifying chapter of my life — by the time you read this, I’ll be more than six months pregnant with my first child.

With a decade in the industry, writing and editing stories about work-life balance, it’s now time to face the reality myself and try to answer the question: Can I have it all?

Certain realities of our new normal will definitely lower some of the barriers. While Benefits Canada and our parent company Contex Group Inc. may have a brick-and-mortar office when I return from maternity leave, at the moment, like many other companies and industries, we’re all working from home. That’s allowed me the opportunity to finally give up my tiny apartment in Toronto and move full time to my big house — and five acres — in Prince Edward County, the gorgeous wine region nestled on Lake Ontario.

Read: Women in Canada’s benefits, pension industries talk gender diversity and beyond

All of these changes coincide with our third annual Women’s Issue. For the Cover Story, I spoke with nine senior women in the human resources, benefits, pension and investment industries. In discussing career paths and challenges, mentorship, work-life balance and the future of the workplace, I felt like I took a crash course in my present and future — as a manager, a woman in this industry and a working mother.

These conversations were so insightful and enlightening that I could have filled this entire issue with the content, but I had to whittle it down. So I want to share a few additional lessons I learned from these amazing and successful women.

On career progression and people management . . .

  • Consider making a big career change to build agility and new skills, as well as learning how to embrace change in a new environment.
  • Expose yourself and your team to opportunities. Give them the chance to have very open, honest discussions and include them in everything when it’s appropriate.

Read: Millennial employees more likely to be involved in mentoring: survey

On mentorship . . .

  • Surround yourself with people who challenge you and think differently.
  • Create opportunities for others to move out of their comfort zone and take on more.

On work-life balance . . .

  • The key for individuals and teams is to feel comfortable and trusting enough to be honest about what it means for you.
  • Real balance is accessible, but we have to make that happen and tap into the resources available to help.

On diversity . . .

  • The more we normalize all genders, as well as diversity and inclusion of all types, the stronger our industry will be.
  • Challenge your own biases and really think about the people you put in positions around you from a diversity lens, including diversity of thought.

And finally, one of these women told me it’s OK to be vocal about what you want in life, which really struck a chord with me given my upcoming life changes. She also encouraged leading by example, which is a motto I’m trying to incorporate into my own people management, especially during these challenging times.

Read: How to use benefits to support diversity and inclusion

Regardless of what my working life looks like when I return from maternity leave, I think it’s important for my team to know what work-life balance looks like for me. And by doing so, it tells them they can do it as well.

But returning to my initial question: Can women have it all? These nine women taught me that, yes, it’s possible, but it also depends on your definition of “all.” The world is changing and the workplace looks different, but it’s still important to consider — and speak up about — what you want in life. And then design a blueprint and make it happen.

Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada.