The question is not “Can women have it all?” Of course a woman “can” have a successful career and family. There will always be anomalies like Hilary Clinton, Sheryl Samberg, etc. A woman can have it all, given that she prioritizes, makes personal sacrifices, and is up for an exhausting, nonstop juggling act.
A better question is “Do women have it all?” In reality, the vast majority of women do not. The playing field is not level. Gender disparities are not due to women having a lack of ambition, talent, or leadership skills. Sure, maybe women stay at home more because it’s natural. However, it still does not account for the fact that a woman who has a top-tier career and is a successful mom is an anomaly.
All successful young women have three options: 1) Throw herself into a career 2) Fulfill her womanly duties 3) Do both. A very real consequence of option three is failing completely; therefore, many women feel they must choose option one or option two. A young man, however, is never faced with this fork in the road. There remains the expectation for a woman to care for her family and home. As long as this exists, men will outperform women. It is challenging enough for a man to attain an illustrious career. To have it all, a woman has to do exactly what a man is doing, and then also care for a family.
If nothing changes, most women of my generation will not have it all—at least, not in the way my male peers will. The most important thing that can come from this discourse is the acknowledgement that the leaky pipeline to the top has to do with societal expectations and institutional sexism. Until we can figure out a way to level the playing field, women of my generation need women ahead of us to be mentors, champions, and encouragers. Women at the top must fight institutional sexism and pull more women to the top.