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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

Must we "Lean In" or "Opt Out"? Keep Calm and Let's Mambo!

Last Friday, I read The Washington Post, She the People article by Rosa Brooks entitled "Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg" ending with a bravado "Manifestus for the rest of us".  Brooks, whose piece went viral, proposes a revolutionary proposition: Before all the "Leaning In" causes burn out, opting out, and self-sabotage of their careers (resulting in even fewer women in the workforce), women should "Recline" and declare limits for themselves in our increasingly "Maxed Out" world. It’s an epiphany she came to realize while “marking up a memo on U.S. drone policy while simultaneously ordering a custom-decorated cake for my daughter’s sixth grade musical cast party and planning my remarks for a roundtable on women in national security.”

And as I read this, I couldn't help but laugh (nervously) and think that while humorous and entertaining, much of what my namesake was saying was sadly true (and parallel to certain events in my own journey!). The harder we try to please and prove societal biases wrong, the harder we fall at failing to "have it all".  But, why is it that in this failure to achieve the impossible, women start blaming other women for taking polar opposite positions in the "Leaning In" OR "Opting Out" debate. No good will come out of it.

Why do we need to take one side over the other? If we are to survive and succeed in Life's Career Marathon, we (both women and men) would be in a better position with a mindset of striking a balance between "Leaning In" and "Reclining".  How about the Mambo, for instance? With it's well timed, balance, both forwards and back, you are intuitively moving in time with the "music" of your professional journey.  A good Mambo is better with a skilled partner to guide your steps and timing: analogous with a good mentor or sponsor for professional development and career advancement advice.

So embrace "Leaning In" when the opportunity seams right, toss the guilt out the window when you feel the need to "Recline", and don't be afraid to ask for help along the way.  Keep yourself flexible to the ebb and flow of opportunities and challenges while not loosing sight of the prize: Job satisfaction and enjoyment. (Do what you Love and Love what you do, right?) Keep Calm and Let's Mambo!

 Mambo Dance Steps Diagram

Mambo Dance Steps Diagram

This post is written by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C