Why should men and women be treated differently?
On International Women’s Day this year, I want to share my story of how I balance family life and career.
I am very satisfied with my life, and it is my hope that other women around the world can also build a life they love. In my case, it was very important to me to be able to pursue a career in auditing and advisory and be there for my two girls, now ages 19 and 23.
My main approach and thinking around work-life balance is an idea you’ve probably heard before, but one I think needs constant repetition: I believe there’s really no reason to treat women differently than men.
Nowadays, in western countries at least, women have more or less the same chances as men. I’m not talking about every last detail, but as a whole.
Quickly recall what changed just in the 20th century. Women got the right to own property, vote, work, and get educated. We also got a division of wealth in cases of divorce and maternity leave. I took off a total of one year when my girls were born, as an example.
It wasn’t always like this, and I’m grateful for the era I live in, as well as the places I have made home.
After living in Copenhagen and Vienna for many years, I am now back in my native Slovenia, where I am managing partner for BDO in Ljubljana. Since Ljubljana is a relatively small city in a relatively small country, it was easy getting to and from the client’s location and being back at home to spend time with my daughters when they were growing up. It may seem trivial, but in Vienna, I had to commute much longer, and it was harder to see clients.
But this is actually just a minor point.
What really makes a difference for me is my husband, and here I want to give him credit. I am very grateful that he and I have established a partnership in which we flexibly share the work. Not always equally – that’s impossible. Sometimes I do more, sometimes he does more. It depends. But we definitely strive to share in all the roles, so that he can have his career and I can have mine.
So there it is. That’s my magic recipe -- fair role sharing in a strong partnership.
I see what happens when this is not the case for some women – maybe they don’t have a partner or parents to help out when kids are sick and a lot is going on at work. It’s a whole lot harder to pursue a career in this case.
On this Women’s Day, I also want to say that women shouldn’t give up the fight. As I said, I believe there’s no reason to treat men and women differently, but women must continue to solidify the gains we have made.
We still need to do more to secure the legal basis for gender equality, and we must keep our own selves in check to make sure that we are respecting ourselves, treating all women and men fairly, and we refuse to tolerate unfair practices or harassment.
Similarly, we need to make sure that our freedoms are extended to all women around the world, and we don’t experience any backsliding due to the influence of cultures in which women are seen as second-class citizens or even property.
If we are positive, and if we model good practices and are strict and fair, we’ll continue moving in the right direction. I’m sure of that. And perhaps my hope will come true. It is my hope for my girls that they never experience any inequality because of their gender.