What does 'success' actually mean to women?
Readers talk back
Must reads site wide
Ask your mother, your grandmother and yourself what the definition of success is to women and you'll probably get three very different answers.
Then ask your friends and colleagues the same thing: perhaps the responses start to share some similarities, but they'll each be highly personal and original.
How we view success has changed dramatically over the last few decades as more women have come into the workplace, received an education and started reaching for the top leadership positions.
How women view success has also changed dramatically, as have a number of competing factors. Is it purely about career? Is it about balancing career and family? Is it more family focused – with the career aspect being all about providing the financial means? Is it about fulfilling and satisfying work? Is it more physical: about the perfect weight, daily exercise, some kind of race event?
Perhaps it's merely making it home only half exhausted, with a little bit of energy left over to enjoy the evening. A drink with friends. A catch-up on social media. Remembering to feed the dog.
A Citi and LinkedIn study released today has some interesting take-outs on what success means to a particular segment of American women. It was only a small, selective sample based on women who are members of a "professional women" LinkedIn group, but there are some trends worth noting.
Firstly, "having it all" is not a realistic expectation, with 96% of those questioned saying it's unobtainable.
Secondly, marriage and children are not necessarily aspects of "success", with 35% of respondents saying marriage doesn't count, and 27% saying the same thing about children.
The more important aspects of success, reported the respondents, were financial security and a strong relationship. Signing the marriage papers doesn't matter so much, but being in the relationship does.
What would your grandmother have to say about all this?
When we polled more than 1500 women on success in the lead up to the launch of Women's Agenda earlier this year, almost 60% said they're ambitious professionally and want to get ahead.
But interestingly, when we asked those polled to tell us what they consider are the key challenges for women, the same key words kept coming up over and over again: "balance", "stress", "competing priorities".
When it comes to success, are women merely setting themselves up for either personal failure or a lifetime of stress?
And when it comes to the definition of success for Australian businesses, does creating a more inclusive and flexible culture for women actually factor seriously into their ambitions for the future? This might be happening in some large professional services firms where the business imperative for supporting the female talent pool is known, but it does not appear to be occurring on a wide scale.
If it was, women wouldn't be disappearing form the workforce, winding back their career ambitions once they have children, or leaving large firms to establish their own businesses where they can have a greater say in determining how and when they'll work. More than half of the small businesses owned by women in Australia were started since 2007, according to AWCCI research.
Business success and a woman's career success go hand in hand. Personal success, no matter what the definition, has a better chance of eventuating for women who can access a workplace that advocates and supports flexible work arrangements for men and women, one where achieving our desired ambitions will not be hindered by archaic workplace cultures, policies and management practices.
What do you think? What's your definition of 'success'?