I am a big fan of making sure that the work environment (that I am a part of at least) is highly conducive for people from all walks of life to be able to be a part of, do their very best and be successful in the way each of them defines success.
As part of this, we recently got together all of the female employees who work at Microsoft in India together for a 2-day conference. The goal here was to really get a chance for these people to do a little bit of networking, to be able to meet with people from other parts of the business and to hopefully share one or two ideas about how they deal with stuff in the workplace that makes them even more effective at what they do.
One of the things that always strikes me in this context is that a lot of the questions and things that people think about are really gender neutral.
I got a chance to speak at this conference. There were 2 common questions that I got from a number of people there.
1) Why are we doing this only for women and not for men?
Here is how I respond – the day we have male representation in a workforce be <= 49.9% is a fine day to do an event like this for men. Though there is a certain amount of humor (people seem to laugh whenever I say this), it is also true that when you have a majority of people that belong to a particular group hopefully there are more unstructured ways for them to get to know each other and share ideas.
2) What do I think about work-life balance?
This is an issue that is highly individual in nature. It exists for men and for women alike. In my mind, I as an individual need to decide what my work life balance should be. Each of us, on an average, has a 30+ year career span. I really want to think about my career as a marathon and not as a 100-meter sprint. I don’t want to burn out after working for a couple of years but really need to pace myself for the long haul. It also varies depending on what phase of my life I am at, what my other priorities are, etc. and so I am the best person to decide what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. It is my job to work with my manager and people that work with me to set expectations appropriately and ensure that I do my fair share. I have to manage this and get help as appropraite from people but it is really up to me to do the right thing taking a long-term focus.