The oft-used term "work/life balance" can mean different things to different people -- and different things to the same person at various points in her career, according to a panel of Wall Street executives at the recent Wharton Women in Business Conference.
The five women on the panel -- which was titled, "For the Long Haul: Wall Street Women on Balancing Life and Work after VP" -- all acknowledged that striking a perfect balance between work and personal life is rarely possible for a first-year associate on Wall Street, but they also agreed that balance is possible with time.
"It's very hard coming right out of business school to achieve work/life balance," said Carol A. Schafer, a managing director in Wachovia Securities' Equity Capital Markets group who also spent 17 years at JP Morgan. "You want to be able to work for an organization that sets you up for work/life balance in the future, one that respects personal life, personal time, has a good mentoring organization -- a good women's organization." A first-year associate can't tell an employer, "Here I am. I'm great. I'm smart, and I demand work/life balance," Schafer noted, but "it's pretty achievable over time."
She added that work performance is critical, especially at a career's start, and will pay off with greater lifestyle flexibility. "If you really want to be there for the long haul, have good opportunities presented to you, be able to achieve work/life balance over time and move around to get a broad experience, you've got to be a consistently good performer. That's what gives you leverage.... Become indispensable and everybody [will] want you to be a part of their network. It's what opens all the doors."