Why is it that women need to do more than men to attain career success? Not only do surveys show that they still carry the majority of responsibility for their children and households, and spend more time on chores than men do, but now they're being asked to cut back on sleep.

That was one suggestion from women focus group attendees who contributed to new research from MPI's Women's Leadership Initiative. The white paper stated that women, as well as men, need certain characteristics to get ahead: adaptability, determination, vision, and so forth. But what was most striking was that the women leaders interviewed identified additional steps that women need to take to get ahead: get help at home; decrease their sleep, hobbies, and interests; and simplify their lives.

Yet, in a survey of women MPI members done two years ago, nearly two-thirds said they had adopted a non-9-to-5 approach in their efforts to balance personal and professional responsibilities. This included working flexible hours, working part time, job sharing, and telecommuting.

We all know that attaining balance and getting ahead can often be in direct conflict with each other. That's clearly the case for women meeting planners. As the white paper concluded, until we have companies that value the “full-life challenges” of women (and men), and who realize that employees have two 24/7 sets of responsibilities, this will be the case.

Until then, women who want to take their careers to the next level have to examine what they really want and make choices. What are their professional goals, what are their personal priorities — and where can they possibly cut back?

For women, for now, it's anything but simple. Something has to give.

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