Now I see that she’s propelled by humour. She’s this little dynamo. She walks into a room and you notice nobody else.’ That was the easy part. Besides encompassing the piece’s dramatic weight, Graham had to come to terms with issues opera divas rarely broach, like the death penalty. I’ve always been against it, but was never really forced to examine it. Now, I’ve questioned it from more angles than I knew existed and I still struggle with it,’ Graham said.





When Betty Friedan wrote her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique,12 she gave voice to the deep malaise, frustration, and self-doubt many women in the 1950s and ‘60s felt in their roles as housewives. She called it “the problem that has no name” and inspired millions of women to join the fight for the opportunity to have careers outside of the home.

Well, now we have them. Yet, women still are only a fractional share of leaders of the vast majority of industries, professions, and careers in this country. Why?

Yes, sexism and unconscious bias in the workplace are part of the problem that holds women back, but I believe there is something deeper going on. I believe the reason more women are not in leadership positions is because they don’t want to be. For many of us, the world as it is currently structured is not a world we women generally want to rule. A 2015 study out of Harvard Business School73 of more than 4,000 highly educated, highly skilled adults revealed that “compared to men, women have higher life goals, associate more negative outcomes with high-power positions, perceive power as less desirable (though equally attainable), and are less likely to take advantage of opportunities for professional advancement.”

In other words, we value more than the singular goal of being at the top. As the researchers concluded, “women may not assume high-level positions in organizations at least in part because they desire other things as well.” It’s not that we lack ambition; it is that we want more than what the current paradigm offers. We want to rule a different world, one that allows us to have professional impact AND have deep and meaningful relationships with our families, our friends, and our communities.

We value more than the singular goal of being at the top.

Sure, there are some women who are willing to forgo their family and relationships and commitment to their communities to rise up within the current paradigm. But for many women, the sacrifices are simply not worth it.

The Women on the Rise survey laid bare this truth in rich and beautiful data. Of the 1,476 respondents, 60 percent considered themselves very ambitious and yet nearly three-quarters paused their careers at some point.

Why? No doubt it had to do with the workplace. The majority (68 percent) reported the excessive travel, long hours, unrelenting demands, unfair pay, limited options for promotion, and ongoing sense they would never achieve their professional goals were key reasons for why they left.

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