Women can have it all – career and family life. Agree or disagree?

The latest fuel to this ever-controversial fire comes from PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. In a recent article, she is direct about her opinion: she doesn’t think that women can have it all – but rather that they can pretend to have it all. In other words, women can look like they’re balancing parenting with a demanding career. The reality, however, is that they probably won’t ever enjoy the genuine feeling of “having it all”, or at least will feel continual guilt for not being able to give their all to each role.

Coverage of her comments in another article suggests another interesting point – that women can have it all if their family is supportive. This arises from Nooyi’s experience – when she arrived home to tell her family that she’d become President of PepsiCo, her mother sent her to go and buy milk (even though it was 10pm and her husband could have bought it earlier). And when she got back, she was told to leave her job title at the door – because “when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage.”

Seems harsh, right? Obviously, Nooyi’s cultural background comes into this: one where the traditional role of the female is expected, no matter how busy her career. But even with the support of the family, would the situation ever be perfect? Surely a working mother would always feel some degree of guilt, even if her husband was at home full-time – isn’t that what they call maternal instinct?

As for my stance on the “can-women-have-it-all” debate, I’ve only heard one opinion that I truly agree with. At a women’s conference a few years ago, speaker Joanna Howe, a law lecturer at The University of Adelaide, suggested that women can have it all, just not at the same time. And maybe we just have to accept that as a challenge, instead of flatly denying it.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.