Could Getting Ahead at Work Cost You at Home?

Could Getting Ahead at Work Cost You at Home?

Women have proven again and again that they can perform the jobs of any of their male counterparts with equal skill. Some studies even show that women outperform men as hedge fund managers and traders.

So why are women so underrepresented in professional positions of power? Only 20 of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, and women occupy just 16.6% of board seats at those companies.

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A new survey, conducted by LinkedIn and Citi, explores what exactly is keeping women from achieving success and satisfaction in their careers. The study, which is in its second year, was inspired by the Connect: Professional Women's Network, a popular LinkedIn group that hosts over 120,000 members. This research differs from many studies in that it focused exclusively on professional women, surveying more than 950 of them.

The results were startling. Only 38% of the women saw themselves being promoted to a senior leadership position at their current employer. They pointed to lack of promotion opportunities (41%), reluctance to take time away from their families or personal time (30%) and not wanting to stay at their companies long enough to be promoted (20%) as the culprits.

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Putting a Face to the Statistics

The career trajectory of Dr. Christine Tsien Silvers exemplifies the second of these roadblocks. Silvers, who has an M.D. from Harvard and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered while she was in school that she didn't think she would be able to pursue a career in academia because she wanted a family.

"I felt I would not be able to compete with other tenure-track types if I did not devote all waking hours (and then some) to doing research, getting more results, publishing, getting more grants, etc.," she says. "I had too strong a desire to have a family and, moreover, have quantity as well as quality time with my family."

So, Silvers pursued a different career track. She worked part time in community emergency rooms to balance work and family, until the "great fortune" of landing her current job, as chief medical officer of a mobile health monitoring company. She works part time and from home.

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Is Flex Time the Answer?

The women polled by LinkedIn and Citi long for job flexibility, with 42% wishing that they could work from home more often.

But women who have the luxury of telecommuting think that the privilege in itself makes them less likely to be promoted: Only 26% of women who work from home can see themselves getting promoted, while 40% of in-office workers do.

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As evidenced both by the LinkedIn/Citi poll and Dr. Silvers's personal experience, there is widespread belief among professional women that you have to let family fall by the wayside in order to progress in your career. But is that truly the case?

"I do not feel behind overall in life. If anything, I feel ahead in achieving true work-family balance."

Laura Vanderkam of AOL wonders why women, who make up 40% of breadwinners in the U.S., think so unilaterally that time is the primary gift they should give their children, rather than the increased opportunities that a larger salary could provide. This, in theory, should resonate even more with the women polled in this study, since 75% of them are either the primary breadwinner in their families or make a salary equal to their spouses.

Regardless, Dr. Silvers has no regrets about her career choices.

"I define success as my boss and the people with whom I work, both inside and outside of my company, thinking I do an excellent job and being pleased with my contributions to the company, to the research community and to the health care industry," she says.

And as for whether she has any regrets for not following her peers who pursued full-time careers in medicine?

"I do not feel behind overall in life. If anything, I feel ahead in achieving true work-family balance," she says.

RELATED: 5 Money Traps Women Fall Into—and How to Beat Them

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