New Survey Defines Success on International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day today, Accenture released their annual research study to see how professionals define success in their careers, personal lives and the never ending quest for work-life balance.

Before we begin, this begs the question for you to ponder: How do you define success? A promotion? A job well done? Client satisfaction? A happy and fulfilling personal life? Success of course can mean different things for different people so sometimes it’s helpful to take stock of your own definition.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

The survey revealed that more than two-thirds of female and male professionals believe they really can “have it all” and more than half turned down a job because they were concerned about a negative impact on their own work-life balance.

Interestingly enough, many responses from both men and women ranging from having it all to a work-life balance and job satisfaction were very similar.

As for the bad news, about 40 percent of respondents proclaimed they were indeed workaholics and 75 percent often work during PTO (paid time off) to catch up on work.

We checked in with Nellie Borrero, managing director of Accenture Global Inclusion & Diversity, for her thoughts on the survey.

MJD: In particular, what does “having it all” mean — assuming work, family life, vacation time, all of the above as in work-life balance?

Nellie Borrero: In this research, having it all means having a successful career and a full life outside of work.  We were struck by the high number – 70 percent – of both female and male respondents who said they believe they can have it all.

We see that over their careers, professionals will define and re-define what success means and this is significant for employers….

One way to respect the changing definitions of success is to recognize the growing importance of work-life or, as I prefer to refer to it, work-life integration.  If anyone thinks work-life is only an issue for working parents or Gen Y, they should recognize its growing importance for women and men, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers, and people at every level of companies.

In the research, work-life balance tops respondents’ definitions of career success, ahead of money and recognition (cited by 56 percent, 46 percent, and 42 percent, respectively). In fact, more than half (52 percent) of the respondents say they have turned down a job due to concerns about its impact on work-life balance. Lastly, 80 percent say that having flexibility in their work schedule is extremely or very important to work-life balance.

MJD: We’ve often heard the expression you can have it all, just not at once. What are your thoughts on that?

NB: We’ve heard this statement – can’t have it all at the same time – often in the discussion of work-life and I have said it myself.  The fact that half of the respondents believe this seems to indicate that people are taking a long-term view of defining success.  While working to having it all, respondents seem pragmatic in knowing that different career goals and personal priorities will take precedence at different times in their lives and careers.  We find that success is intensely individual and so we recognize that each person defines it differently just as they may approach work-life integration differently.

MJD: How does Accenture define the word “success” as per the study?

NB: In the International Women’s Day research we asked people to define success. Respondents told us how important work-life balance was to them and, in fact, it topped respondents’ definitions of career success, ahead of money, recognition and autonomy (cited by 56 percent, 46 percent, 42 percent and 42 percent, respectively).