Is it possible to ‘have it all’? by Josie O’Heney

Published: 20 May 2022

Our Clinical Fellow, Dr Josie O’Heney talks about the challenges women in leadership face when balancing family life and asks whether it’s possible to ‘have it all’ in her latest blog post for the BMJ Leader. Here’s a short excerpt:

“At a recent session we heard from yet another middle aged man… His journey was similar to others – very impressive and sounded all consuming. I posed a question after he mentioned the importance of family – ‘you talk about the importance of friends and family… do you think it’s possible for both parents to be in roles like this or do you have a partner providing a lot of the support at home?’ and unfortunately got the answer that I was expecting – that he was able to achieve all of this because of the support of his wife and that in short he didn’t think it was possible for both parents to be in senior leadership roles.

“As a mother of 3 and with a husband that works ‘in the city’ I left the session feeling very despondent. I don’t want to live my professional life hiding the fact that I’m a parent. I want to occasionally manage to attend the school assembly or pick my kids up from school, but I also love my job and want to embrace opportunities that arise – and I don’t think my gender should impact this. In contrast I also want my husband to be able to do the same things for our children, and feel that he can say he needs to leave early or arrive late sometimes as he has family commitments – setting a great example to his team, but not being lauded as a hero for it – this just needs to be normal.

“After the insight session I tweeted asking if anyone with 2 parents in senior leadership roles has made it work… that afternoon, Celia Ingham-Clark, an inspirational senior female medical leader asked me to stay at the end of a meeting and spoke to me about her experiences. She described how she wasn’t always been able to take opportunities that presented themselves, but ultimately she has balanced family life with a very successful career. The power of her reaching out was incredible for me – these are the voices that we need to amplify to increase female representation at senior levels.”

Read the full blog post on the BMJ Leader website.