working women

“Having It All”

Its summertime and the season for some reflection and relaxation.  At the Aspen Ideas Festival where people are engaging in some of both, the world got another high-profile woman’s take on whether it was possible to “have it all”.  Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo was pretty clear in her answer: no.  In fact, she said the conflicts between being a mother, wife, daughter and CEO were pretty much absolute and reared its head multiple times a day.  She is incredibly charming and you can watch her chat here (start watching the video at 22:00).

In the discussion society has about “having it all”, you hear a wide range of personal anecdotes and understandably strong opinions.  And part of the conversation rejects the question itself, challenging what “having it all” means in the first place.  After all, surveys and research show that most people (including women) tend to believe they have made the right choices, whether its to stay-at-home-with-children, attempt both a career and motherhood, or just choose their own definition of success altogether.  Most people say they would make the same choices again if given a second chance.

So where does this notion of “having it all” come from?  What does the saying even mean?

William Safire wrote a piece over a decade ago suggesting two different meanings/connotations based on common usage of the term: (1) Having everything at once; and (2) Having varied experiences (professional and personal) in stages.  Amusingly, the etymologist ends his exploration of the phrase by saying “I would like to offer greater lexical clarity, but you know what you cannot have.”



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