In researching how to identify your strengths, I came across Marcus Buckingham’s book “Find Your Strongest Life” published in 2010.
At the front of the book, he had included ten myths about the lives of women. I was initially resistant to accepting some of them. But, the research data have spoken. These myths are related to women’s happiness, fulfilment, careers, roles in family and motherhood. Here are my thoughts on the myths and how they are relevant to my life.
But first, who is Marcus Buckingham and why should I listen to what he has to say?
Who is Marcus Buckingham?
Marcus Buckingham is an organizational researcher and thought leader who has focused on how people work, helping them discover their strengths and increasing their performance. He is an author of eight books at my last count. His research and analyses have guided his mission to cultivate an organizational culture that focuses on people using their strengths at work which increases engagement for the employee and efficiency and productivity for the organization. His strengths-based approach is a win-win situation for both the organization and the employee.
Buckingham’s writing is research-driven, harnessing the results of his collaboratively designed strengths assessment which has been taken by millions worldwide. He is one of few in the organization satisfaction space with data-driven assessments. So, I am all too willing to listen to what he has to say.
In reading his book “Find Your Strongest Life” and the beginning which starts with the ten myths about the lives of women, you get the sense that he and his team have crystallized their findings into very specific aspects of women’s lives. His writing is simple and easy to understand. In having been in a research space myself for over ten years, I have realized that findings that seem simple to understand usually have had substantial data and analyses to support the rather simple statements.
So, let’s look at the findings as related to these 10 myths.
The women’s movement over the past four to six decades have advocated for better education, jobs, and pay. Most women, including myself, assumed that they will be happier and more fulfilled than their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. In fact, women are less happy relative to the older generations and relative to men.
What the hell!!!!! How can this be? I suspect we have added more roles to our lives that our grandmothers did not have: getting an education, having a career, and living to our best potential that society has afforded us.
2. Engagement and fulfilment
Another false assumption is that women will become more engaged and fulfilled as they get older.
Nope. Not at all.
While we begin our careers more satisfied than men we gradually become less satisfied with every aspect of our lives – from marriage, family, finances and belongings.
It is heartening to me that the lack of fulfilment that I have experienced in the past year is quite normal. It also means that there are solutions and that researchers like Buckingham have been looking into it. I’m looking forward to reading more about the research and what I can do.
3. Managerial and supervisory positions
Women tend to believe that men continue to hold more managerial and supervisory roles. But that is no longer the case across all disciplines.
“A higher percentage of women (37%) hold managerial or supervisory positions as compared to men (31%).”
This may be the case for most disciplines, but some disciplines are still male-dominated. From my experience in a university and in a science faculty, most of the managerial positions are held by men. I’m not complaining either because I am one of the women who would prefer to have less to do in certain types of jobs. Also, being a supervisor or manager will remove time from my strength roles.
4. Breadwinners and caretakers
One significant change women have had over the decades is in how men and women think about their roles in being the breadwinner and the caretaker.
Fewer men than the previous generations (42% versus 74%) think that men should be the primary breadwinner while women should be the primary caretaker of the home. This is on par with what women think – 39% of women think the same.
I am from a home where my mom worked and at times she was the primary breadwinner, so I’m a bit surprised that a significant portion of women think men should be the primary breadwinner. But then again, my experiences will be different from another woman.
5. Women or men as supervisors or bosses
Another surprising result of the research is that women prefer to work for men than other women, with 40% preferring men versus 26% preferring women, and 34% didn’t care whether the boss is male or female.
So the question is why do more women prefer a male boss?
I’m not sure how to respond to this one because most of my managers were men. The female one and her female colleagues tried to ruin my reputation. My experience indicates senior women can be jealous of junior females for reasons unknown. I have felt deeply hurt at the times because I had looked up to the female supervisor. However, her behavior and attitudes toward me have worsened in years and have led to bullying. While I have stood up for myself, I still believe women have a lot to contribute and that we need to change work culture for better women-to-women working relationships.
6. Having more free time
Again another surprising result here: having more free time did not increase a woman’s feelings of relaxation. It increased men’s.
I can relate to this. While I was in therapy for coping with a miscarriage, my therapist had asked me to carve out some time for myself because I always seemed to be working. I was asked to make it consistent. In the beginning, I was worrying more about things collapsing around me. I missed somethings at work and students complained about me. But those complaints were not founded as they were driven by hidden manipulations of a retired female colleague. What I learnt is that I needed to carve out time for myself and learn to relax. Now, I ensure I take some time for myself on a weekend. I get to enjoy other creative pursuits other than work.
7. Having more children
Having more children does not make a woman happier. Kids are stress and married mothers are always more stressed and less happy than married women with no kids.
I’m married without kids. I want a child but I have been worried about how my life will change when I do have one. I have been questioning whether I want the stress.
8. Time with children
This finding is hilarious. Mothers, contrary to what you may think, most kids do not want more time with you. Their most common request is for you to be less stressed and tired.
Okay, maybe the finding is not so hilarious but more insightful and loving…your kids want the best for you. So when the hubby wants you to spend more time to be a caretaker, take the time to take care of yourself first. I relate to this. My mom was always occupied with work, cooking, singing professionally, and tired. She had to nap each evening after teaching all day and my dad taught us to leave her alone. We had to occupy ourselves and he also took care of us by entertaining my brother and I with magic tricks and stories.
While we would like to think we are great at multitasking, women are no better at multitasking than men. When your attention is divided you tend to take longer and make more mistakes. Your IQ drops. So work on one hard thing at a time.
You can still multitask, just not on the hard things. Putting beans to cook while you clean up the kitchen counter is multitasking but does not occupy mental space. But writing a blog post while trying to write a report for work is serious multitasking to avoid. The same type of attention is divided between two heavy-hitting tasks. Work on one writing project before working on the next one.
Women still do more housework than men: 17 hours for women versus 13 hours for men.
I think we need to have a husband or partner who can hold their own in the home. Less stress for us. Besides, the housework could be split up according to what each person likes to do.
Call to action
Digest these findings. Assess your own life and the relevance of these findings to your life. And then, choose one aspect you need to look at and make one change. Make small changes over time and reap the rewards of a happier and more fulfilling life.