Women in the workforce often feel societal pressure to “do it all” and “have it all” by being everything to everyone while simultaneously balancing their work and personal lives perfectly. Many working women feel as if they are expected to lead, be good partners and/or mothers, keep themselves healthy, have robust social lives and more—all while continuously advancing in their careers.
The expectation of being a “superwoman” causes many women to feel anxious about their work. However, it is possible to have both a satisfying career and a happy, healthy family life if one can find effective ways to alleviate unnecessary, unhelpful stress and let go of external and internal pressures to achieve perfection in all areas of life.
To learn more about how to better support women in the workforce, see the insights from 16 women on Forbes Coaches Council below. Here, they share some detrimental “superwoman” myths that need to be dispelled so that women can enjoy the full spectrum of experiences at home and at work.
1. Perfect Work-Life Balance Exists
The biggest myth is that there’s such a thing as work-life balance. At best, there may be a work-life “blend,” especially as people continue to work and live in the same place. Women have been told for years that we can do it all. However, we can’t always do it all at the same time and do it well. There will be times when women will have a clear work-life imbalance, and that’s normal, to be expected and okay. – Marcia Narine Weldon, Illuminating Wisdom
2. There’s A Benchmark Women Need To Reach
The biggest “superwoman” myth is the belief that being a superwoman is the benchmark all women need to aspire for. The benchmark itself sets each woman up for failure. With too many demands and too many expectations of them, all women need support and encouragement on this journey. – Rittu Sinha, The Balanced Bandwagon
3. One Woman Can Do It All
One “superwoman” myth that needs to be dispelled is that one woman can do it all. I believe in building a support network of social and professional connections who can help if need be. I also believe in investing in relationships with competitors and talking openly about challenges. “Superwoman” is strong and resilient, but she is also not afraid to be vulnerable with the right people. – Michelle Perchuk, MTV Coaching
4. Women Need To Be All Things To All People
A “superwoman” myth that needs to be dispelled is that women need to be all things to all people at all times. Supporting women in the workplace begins with asking to hear about and listening to their needs, then providing the resources and opportunities to respond in a manner that allows them to show up authentically and as their best selves. – Cathy Lanzalaco, Inspire Careers LLC
5. Women Leaders Should Be Perfect
A business can’t be everything to everyone. Yet women leaders are expected to be perfect at work, family, social life and community. She has to have it all, do it all and do it by herself while looking good. Business leaders can dispel the “do it myself” myth by having open conversations to co-create shared team values, such as growth, flexibility and kindness, and learning how to ask for and receive support. – Anne Phey, Leadership Coaching School
6. A Woman Needs To Do Everything At Once
One “superwoman” myth that needs to be dispelled is that a woman needs to do everything at once. Successful women are born with a built-in urgency that is only reinforced through their education and early professional careers. Many do not realize that “doing it all” rarely happens all at once in a healthy and sustainable manner. Consequently, too many burn out when they realize “superwoman” is a myth. – Jill Helmer, Jill Helmer Consulting
7. There Is Only One Way To Lead
Women have been conditioned to believe there is only one way to lead: to push hard, to take it all on, to always say “yes” and to do it alone. This myth is slowly sucking the life, health and happiness out of successful women. It is possible to have a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life at the same time, but you must learn a new way to live and lead that incorporates holistic wellness. – Julie Santiago, Julie Santiago Inc.
8. Superwoman Exists
She—“superwoman”—does not exist! Instead, there are many talented, hardworking, amazing colleagues who are also mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends and volunteers. To support them, their managers must have regular conversations with them where all unrealistic expectations are aired out and realistic ones become agreements that work for everyone. – Lusia Moskvicheva, The Happy Life Strategist
9. Women Have To Choose Between A Career And A Family
The idea that women need to choose between their career and being a mother is based on outdated gender stereotypes that put the vast amount of child and home care on the mother’s plate. Women are forced to do a “second shift” at home after putting in a full day at work. In households where the partner shares these responsibilities equally, women are able to have the careers they want. – Sangeeta Gupta, Gupta Consulting Group, Inc.
10. Women Will Be Happier If They Keep Doing More
As a woman who has had it all—a satisfying career, beautiful children, a full social and emotional life, a deeply felt purpose and so on—I can say that you can have it all, it’s just gonna suck! We need to be able to have less of something in order to thrive. The myth that we will be happier if we have more and do more is keeping women from having a moment to enjoy what we do have. Enough is really enough! – Lisa Schenk, Schenk Consulting Group
11. Women Don’t Need To Delegate
“Superwoman” is a cartoon character who does not exist in human form. The fact is, if you aspire to be a superwoman, some facet of your life will enviably fall apart. In reality, multitasking means you’re probably doing everything at 65% instead of prioritizing tasks and doing each of them the best you can. Delegate. It is empowering. Burning the candle at both ends leads to burnout. – Lynn Blades, Legacy Leadership
12. Women Should Meet Higher Standards Without Support
Dispel the expectation that every working woman should be “superwoman.” Working women were the most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, organizational leaders have the opportunity to create cultures where women are not held to higher standards, are not expected to do functions outside of the job requirements and, most importantly, are provided with resources to assist with their home duties. – Natasha Bowman, Performance ReNEW
13. High-Performing Women Still Aren’t Ready To Lead
Women often have different leadership styles that are perceived to be “softer” and less driving, which, in turn, often leads to the incorrect assumption that they cannot take charge. So, despite having performed, delivered and led at high levels, they are perceived as not being ready. Let’s all look more deeply at what makes a great leader and use evidence to decide if someone is ready. – Rose Cartolari, Rose Cartolari Consulting
14. Women Should Have It Together All Of The Time
It is false to even say that you have to be a superwoman to be successful. Nobody has it together all of the time. What you see in your social media feed is not reality! It’s so important that we serve as role models by being the leaders we want others to be, telling our stories—the good, the bad and the ugly—and most of all, being human. – Carol Brown, 109
15. Successful Women Work Around The Clock
One myth is that you must work around the clock to be successful. Often, women who have found a satisfying balance have learned that only they can set their own limits. Give your all while you are at work. Be exceptionally productive and make time for what’s really important to you. Determine what you are not willing to give up, such as dinners with your family or watching a child’s sports event. Your choices matter. – Kim Ramsey, The Executive Edge, Inc.
16. Women Can’t Say ‘No’
Fact: “No” is a complete sentence. A lack of boundaries can be a huge culprit that is robbing your time and sometimes your mental wellness. Not everything has to be done by you for you to be successful. Delegation, blocking out time to decompress, and honoring your time off will give you the space and grace to lead authentically. – Joyel Crawford, Crawford Leadership Strategies, LLC.