URSULA BURNS: Seeking Perfect Work-Life Balance Is A 'Fools Journey'

Ursula Burns

Work-life balance and women in the workplace have become a hot topic after Sheryl Sandberg published Lean In, a book on the subject, and Marissa Mayer controversially recalled Yahoo’s remote workers, sparking the ire of some women. 

Another of the world’s most prominent women in business, Xerox CEO and Chairman Ursula Burns, weighed in at a talk at Catalyst’s annual awards ceremony yesterday. The Wall Street Journal’s Leslie Kwoh was on hand to catch her advice on how young women can achieve their career goals. Here’s what she had to say on work life balance:

It’s a “fool’s journey” to try to achieve perfect balance between one’s professional and personal lives, Burns says. Instead, she suggests women get comfortable with the idea of taking “your entire life to find balance. You should have balance, on average, over time – not in a day or in a month.”

Now and then, either a job or one’s personal life has to take a back seat. That’s especially true for people in high stress, high commitment jobs like the one Burns has. You have to be realistic about that. But with careful planning and balance, the aggregate can be satisfying. 

As for how to work towards balance, if not achieve it right away, Burns had a couple of other tips: 

  • Be selfish sometimes. Work life balance isn’t just about choosing between one’s job and family. Occasionally you have to choose yourself, and just check out from both for a while.
  • If you choose to have children, don’t accept guilt trips. Being at every sports game isn’t necessary or realistic. “Kids are pretty resilient,” Burns said.

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