You Can’t Have It All: 40% Of Women Professionals Are ‘Hanging On By A Thread’

Popular psychology to the contrary, most women professionals are struggling according to a new study by career strategist and author Megan Dalla-Camina. Dalla-Camina is the author of Getting Real About Having It All, a book she premiered in Australia late last year that is debuting in the U.S. this week.

In the new study, Dalla-Camina surveyed 1,000 American women professionals about their well-being. The results: While women are making great progress on the career front, 70% believe the concept of success at both home and work is a myth. For the most part, the opinion Anne-Marie Slaughterexpressed in The Atlantic in 2012 is still true: “The women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”

Megan Dalla-Camina is a stratagist, an author, and an advocate for women in leadership and well-being

According to Dalla-Camina’s survey:

  • 70% of woman are struggling with well-being
  • 40% say they are “hanging on by a thread”
  • Encouragingly, 30% feel they have all of the things they need and want
  • But sadly, only 16% are very satisfied with their lives overall
  • 66% would like a better career, but 47% would like more time to themselves.

In a word, women in careers are conflicted. In a phone interview with Dalla-Camina she told me the women queried in her poll spanned the full spectrum of age and career. Most surprising for her, the results appear to be equally true for both parents and non-parents and married or single adults.

“More than 55% of women continue to have an issue with doing what’s best for themselves and provide favors and service for others first, even when it’s not in their best interest,” she said. “They report a feeling of being on a treadmill and running so fast they’re scared to look to the left or the right, so they just keep running.”

Many of the answers, Dalla-Camina believes, need to come from the top: “We need better leaders, and better workplace cultures. Seventy percent of the workplace culture originates with the leader. I see too many workplace programs that simply put a bandaid on the problem instead of taking a deeper look at the cause.”

Dalla-Camina has experienced the work-life crisis herself. Now 44, she recalls the 15 intense years of a high-paced career before she hit burnout at age 35 and a half as a kind of “grayness” in which she was simply going through the motions of her work and her life. She is also the parent of a 13-year-old son, and has been a single parent for 12 years, from the time he was one.  When she hit the proverbial wall, she made a major life change and dropped out of the corporate arena entirely. She added a masters degree in wellness psychology to her original MBA and is currently at work on a doctorate program as well.

Today she is counseling other professionals, primarily women (but also men) to provide them with the tools and strategies to achieve a better measure of balance in their current situations, as well as with their definitions of success. Interestingly, Dalla-Camina has conducted similar research in Australia and reports the responses were nearly identical for men. Like the American women in the current study, the men were nearly universally struggling for balance, whether married or single and regardless of whether they are parents or not.

“We have this big perception that working mothers have it harder than men,” she acknowledged, “But the stats I’ve looked at recently don’t support these traditional myths. That’s something for organizations and cultures to really think about. It’s not a discussion that’s just about women anymore, but about men as well. What do today’s professionals need? What new levels of permission do they need to show up? It’s good to take the gender out of the equation. That’s the ultimate conversation.”

For a copy of the new study or to reach Megan Dalla-Camina directly, readers can