Kraft's CEO Wants Us To Forget Work/Life Balance

by Aman Singh Das | October 22, 2010

  • My Vault

Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld wants us to forget work/life balance. In an interview with Steve Forbes, Rosenfeld called "the notion of balance a little bit of a misnomer."

To be clear, she isn't exactly for or against trying to have some semblance of balance between personal and professional priorities. But she is against seeing it from a short term perspective. Her explanation:

"I think you have this sense that there is this scale and every day and everything is just perfect. The reality is that it kind of goes like this or like that. And so I think what my advice to young women and men--because I think, increasingly, we're finding that the young men in the company are much more active fathers than, perhaps, the generation that preceded them--my advice to them is to figure out what's important to you and make sure that you take advantage of that."

In the same interview Rosenfeld also discussed why despite making up half the workforce today, women remain a minority among top corporate ranks, calling it a problem with the pipeline.

"One of the things that we at Kraft focus on as we look at our talent is to look at who [is] on the bench ... for our key positions. And very often we find that, particularly in sales and manufacturing, where our representation is relatively lower than it might be in the marketing ranks, we find that often ... we have women and other diverse candidates [that] don't necessarily have the experiences that are necessary to move up in that pipeline. So we spend a lot more time now talking about what sorts of experiences we need to provide to these candidates to ensure that, as they move along, that they are, in fact, qualified."

Last year, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch created a storm by declaring that there is no such thing as work/life balance at an SHRM conference, adding that "women have to make choices, the choice between family and the quest for the corner office ... and that choices have consequences."

Seems like some have indeed learnt to make the choice. According to a Wall Street Journal piece earlier this week, there are 12 female CEOs among the Fortune 500 today and 11 of them are mothers. While these numbers are cause for celebration, it is undoubtedly small joy for a demographic that claims half the workforce.

As my colleague Phil Stott wondered in this piece, why are women with children more likely to run Fortune 500 companies than those without?

Filed Under: CSR

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