A retired Wall Street Journal editor and mother compares two generations of women—boomers and GenXers—to examine how each navigates the emotional and professional challenges involved in juggling managerial careers and families.
For the first time in American history, a significant number of mothers are heading major corporations, including General Motors, Ulta Beauty, and Best Buy. Over the past several decades, women have made gains throughout executive suites. Yet these “Power Moms” still struggle with balancing their management responsibilities with raising children. Joann S. Lublin draws on the experiences of the nation’s two generations of these successful women to measure how far we’ve come—and how far we still need to go.
Lublin combines her own insights with those of eighty-five executive mothers across industries—including experienced public-company chiefs such as Carol Bartz, the first woman to command Autodesk and Yahoo; Hershey’s Michele Buck, DuPont’s Ellen Kullman, ITT’s Denise Ramos, and WW International’s Mindy Grossman—and twenty-five of their grown daughters. Lublin reveals how trailblazer boomers, many now in their sixties, often endured sweeping disapproval for their demanding management careers, even as their own daughters sometimes rejected their choices. While the second wave of executive mothers—all under forty-five—handle working parenthood with less angst, they still lead stressful lives.
Power Moms provides lessons and advice to help today’s professional women, their families, and their employers navigate this challenging terrain. Lublin looks at the trade-offs mothers are too often forced to make between work and family and the root causes, including the dearth of large-scale paid parental leave and other family-friendly policies. While it celebrates the gains women have made, Power Moms makes clear how much more must be done to make being a working mother easier.
Journalist Lublin (Earning It) wonders whether Gen-X women "tackle the daunting challenges of parenthood" differently than baby boomers in this frank exploration of the struggles and triumphs of C-suite mothers. The author interviewed 86 "experienced female business executives with successful careers and children" and concluded that the differences between them lie in the support they had: for the Baby Boomer "First-Wave Power Mom," benefits such as telecommuting weren't an option and she had to conceal "the chaos of motherhood," whereas Gen X's "Second-Wave Power Mom" is better supported in using parental leave, expects a partner to share household duties, and "brings her authentic self to work." Lublin provides a brief history of working mothers in the U.S., then shares her subjects' stories; a "first-wave" CEO of a software company had to cut her maternity leave short to get a promotion, while the "second-wave" founder of Rent the Runway was met with enthusiasm after announcing to her board that she was trying to get pregnant. Though Lublin's survey covers relatively familiar ground navigating the guilt of time spent at work or with kids, the importance of a company culture that celebrates rather than punishes family commitments the generational comparison makes for an informative glimpse into the lives of a rarified group. Readers curious about what's changed and what hasn't for high-ranking working mothers will find much to consider.