It's really not The End of Men - Page 2

Last week, I spoke to one of these rare female mountaineers who have made it to the summit: a woman CFO of a major global corporation. What did she make of the End of Men thesis? She laughed. “Not much sign of that up here – it would be more accurate to talk about the End of Women – there were three of us women at this level two years ago, when I go there will be one– she’s the last woman standing. “ Sarah, who asked to remain anonymous “in case I ever want another job” is 40. The last five years since she was appointed “have been tough, I’ve often been in the office till 10pm, it’s a brutal, competitive, dog-eat-dog world.”

So why is she leaving? “I came from a modest background, I’ve earned enough to pay off my mortgage, money alone isn’t a motivator for me and I feel burnt out.” Part of that exhaustion is fuelled by guilt. “I’ve worked really hard, I’ve got a six year old daughter whom I rarely see. I know she is happy and I have a wonderful supportive husband and a live-in nannie but I have been getting increasingly stressed and I just have got to the point where I think life is more important than work.” Knowing she was a role-model and a trailblazer made her stick at the job but she says: “I know Sheryl Sandberg [CFO of Facebook] said that women should just suck it up and keep going like the men do, but it is incredibly difficult to manage a high powered job and balance that with any kind of family life. I came back to work when my daughter was 5 months old, I’ve never taken her to ballet, or seen her recitals, I never pick her up from school, I don’t know any of the other mothers.

“That’s been ok - I made the choices I made, and there is no reason why women shouldn’t make them, too. But I have reached a point where the status and the money are just not worth it. The men run on huge egos, they are competitive, they want to win, they are much more driven by that, but also much better at taking time for themselves to recuperate. They are just wired differently. If I have an hour off I want to spend it with my daughter, if the men do, they go to the gym. I haven’t had a moment for myself for the last four years – I don’t even go shopping, I do everything online. It is so stressful it’s just not worth it, I just don’t want to miss out on my daughter growing up. I’m choosing not to have it all.”

Last week one of the world’s most successful women, Christine LaGarde, head of the IMF, and mother of two sons, Thomas, 24, and Pierre-henri, 26 expressed similar sentiments. “I think you cannot have it at the same time. I think you can in a way have it all as long as you can afford to be patient. But you cannot have it all at the same time. You must accept there will be failures.”

Back on the train, the female breadwinner in the red stripey jacket was just getting into her stride. “It will take a long time to change the cultural values surrounding all of this. Women are expected to feel guilty, just as they are expected to take on the child-rearing role. Our culture gives women space to feel guilty – but there is no expectation of male guilt, so they don’t feel it.”

The man behind her disagreed. “Some women just want to raise their own children,” he said, citing his wife who had just given up work. He has a point, despite bossy career-women policy makers trying to convince the majority of women to think otherwise, survey after survey shows that the maternal urge remains strong, with three out of four new working mothers saying they would stay at home if “money was no object” – and only 12% saying they would go on working. Certainly, prosperous parts of Britain are awash with highly educated mothers who’ve chosen the home front over their once brilliant career. Many of my own peers have made just such choices. Rosin argues that highly educated couples now have “see-saw” marriages, where they take it in turn to earn the majority of the money, or take on the prime domestic role – in my experience one, usually the woman, gets stuck in the supportive role, even if she was the higher achiever earlier on.   
 
Ultimately, feminism was about giving women choices: the trouble with these books is they are once again trying to push both sexes into a one size fits all model. But men and women come in different forms – maternal men, killer women. Germaine Greer once said “I didn't fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the board of Hoover." The sexual revolution was about creating a more equal and non-patriarchal society for all.  Surely the happiest future for everyone is to let all of us pursue our talents and passions whatever our sex – and to share the domestic challenges equally. But that wouldn’t make such a catchy title for a polemical book.

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