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When Did Women Start to Think They Had to Be Wonder Women?

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A successful angel investor discusses Debora Spar’s book and concludes “do not put your personal life on hold for your business life.”

By Joanne Wilson (Blogger & Angel Investor, Gotham Gal)

I have been reading Debora Spar’s book, Wonder Woman: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection. It is an interesting read particularly for me because Debora’s only two years younger than I am. I like the beginnings of each of the chapters where Debora gives us a little color on her own life and the choices she has made before she backs it up with research and data. After all, she is the President of Barnard University and professors just can’t help themselves.

When I think of women entering the workplace, I start during WW2 when many women got on the production line to help. After that, well, many decided working was a really good thing. Many women went into either the nursing profession or became teachers. Then just as most things happen, some of those women wanted more and they began to move into other professions. These women taught their daughters that they should go to a good school and get a good job in any profession. And so they did.

Yet along the way there was a sexual revolution and everything changed. Women could have sex freely without the concern that they might get pregnant. They could prolong their desires to get married and procreate. They could have power jobs and be power women as long as they wanted to, but those desires that women had 50 years ago to have a partner or a husband and perhaps have a family have not gone away. Society might have changed, but in many ways the front end has changed. I am not sure the back end has totally changed. Debora writes about this and backs it up with pretty strong data.

There is this one chapter in her book that has really stuck with me. It is an advertisement from when I was growing up that certainly had an impact on me. It was for the perfume Charlie. The ad portrayed a tall, svelte, blond-haired woman with high heels and a flowing black suit with a white blouse underneath. She is moving forward with a brief case in one hand and a few kids in tow with the other. The tag line was essentially, ‘how she can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never ever let him forget he’s a man?’

So essentially you can do it all. When I think of that now, I just gag. Then I am sure I thought I can be like that. Yet nobody told me exactly how you had to pick up dinner to make it, that the children were not miracously bathed, cleaned and clothed, that I had to go buy that suit in order to have one, or that by attempting to do all that stuff I would rarely have time for myself and I would look like I had not slept in years.

Debora’s book is a worthy read. She documents the changes that have taken place for women since we were kids. There is no doubt that women have more control of their lives and more opportunities available to them. There is one thing that I do believe is incredibly important for women who are young and just starting out in their lives, be it just graduating from college or starting their own company: do not put your personal life on hold for your business life. We might have the ability to do it all, but if you are 30 and you haven’t had a kid yet then freeze your eggs. Women have been balancing their lives for hundreds of years when they ran the family farm. The content might have been different, but they had to figure it out then too.

Can we all be wonder women? I know at times I certainly try but I am very glad that I did not let my business life ( which has always been a huge part of my psyche ) get in the way of my personal life.

We do not have to be wonder women. We just have to be honest with ourselves about what makes each of us as individuals happy, filling our own needs and desires to be everything we can be. Not sure that includes frying the bacon up in the pan but at least these days we can order it on line and have it delivered.

This post originally appeared on Gotham Girl. Image credit: B. Baltimore Brown via Flickr.  

Do you agree with Joanne that you shouldn’t put your professional life ahead of your personal life?

About the blogger: Joanne (@thegothamgal) is an advisor and investor in startups, including Curbed (Eater/Racked), Food52, Red Stamp, Catchafire, DailyWorth, Editd, Ricks Picks, Cacao Pietro, Editions 01, Hot Bread Kitchen, Nest.io, Gotham Gym, The Moon Group and MOUSE. Her most successful venture is being married to her best friend and raising three kids.