Are we thinking about work-life balance the wrong way?

It’s one of the great struggles of modern life: finding a precise, perfect balance between work and life. And, according to Amy Howe, our obsession with finding that elusive equilibrium is part of the problem.This interview was originally published by Politico on November 6, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

“I don’t even love the term [‘work-life balance’] because it implies that on any given day or week, that you have to have perfect balance,” Howe said in an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “What I’ve come to realize over time is it’s a long game. There are times in your life that you’re not going to have balance, and that’s okay. I’ve made some very conscious choices not to.”

Howe, the president and COO of Ticketmaster North America, joined the company in 2015 after more than 14 years working as a business consultant at McKinsey. When she started at McKinsey, roughly 10 percent of the partners were women — and Howe was determined to join and expand their ranks.

“When I first joined McKinsey, I wasn’t married, and so those were the years to just kind of buckle down and invest, and I’m really glad I did.” said Howe. “I made partner when I found out I was pregnant with my first child — and those are two points in your life that if you think you can control either of those, you’re kidding yourself.”

Over time, Howe and her husband — himself a successful CFO at a large company — had three children. And as their family grew, the calculus changed about what a fulfilling work life looked like.

“I had made partner and had all three of our children while I was at McKinsey, and juggled it really well for a while,” said Howe. “And then, after a certain period of time, for me, my barometer was, ‘Is this working for me, right, am I still having fun, am I still developing and learning, and how is that impacting my family life?’”

Howe thought candidly about what she wanted to do next, and what the right fit for her might be.

“At some point, if you’re going to do anything other than consulting, you’ve got to move over,” said Howe. “I had a feeling that I was going to love being in an operating role. … The old adage that when you’re in consulting, you tell people what to do, but you don’t really get a chance to implement your own recommendations is true.” At Live Nation Entertainment, Ticketmaster’s parent company and a former consulting client of Howe’s, she would get the chance to do exactly that.

Finding the right professional fit — including a satisfying work-life balance — is a “very personal and individual” decision, says Howe. Which may be why the unending public discourse about a perfect work-life balance is so difficult: It often treats the question as though there’s a one-size-fits-all answer.

“There’s no one right answer,” said Howe. “I have lots of friends who are incredibly talented from business school who have made very different choices, and they were right for them. For me, this has been absolutely the right decision.”

To hear more from Amy Howe, listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.

This interview was originally published at Politico on November 6, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Amy L Howe. Until September 2016, Amy served as the editor and reporter for SCOTUSblog, a blog devoted to coverage of the Supreme Court of the United States; she continues to serve as an independent contractor and reporter for SCOTUSblog. Before turning to full-time blogging, she served as counsel in over two dozen merits cases at the Supreme Court and argued two cases there. From 2004 until 2011, she co-taught Supreme Court litigation at Stanford Law School; from 2005 until 2013, she co-taught a similar class at Harvard Law School. She has also served as an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law and Vanderbilt Law School. Amy is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a master’s degree in Arab Studies and a law degree from Georgetown University.

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