October 10th, 2012 | 1:00 pm

What Does Success Mean to You?

filed under Managing Change

Cheerful employerBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

According to a new study by Citi and LinkedIn, the notion of success is expanding for women. As more and more women reach high levels in the workforce and handle issues like work life challenges or career advancement in their own way, it should come as no surprise to see that women are generating their own definitions of success.

Linda Descano – Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, Content, and Social at Citi and President and CEO of Women & Co., Citi’s personal finance resource for women – explained, “We knew from the reaction on [Citi’s LinkedIn portal] Connect to this summer’s “having it all” debate that the survey results would paint a much different picture of success than a lot of the media commentary surrounding Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece. ‘Having it all’ means different things to different people – and we were pleasantly surprised at how that came to life so evidently in the survey results, with marriage, children, and the C-Suite all being factors for some of our respondents – but not all.”

One surprise, though, was how many women said they do believe success is attainable. Very few respondents (four percent) said they didn’t think they could one day “have it all.”

Descano said she was “incredibly optimistic” about this data. “Had we asked that question out of context, I’m not sure if we would have received the same results. But when we asked women to really think about the factors that make up their definition of ‘having it all,’ they realized that it is totally attainable.”

Career Challenges Go Hand in Hand

Less than two in five respondents to the survey (17 percent) said reaching the C-suite was a factor in “having it all” for them. Most respondents said they defined success as “a job they enjoy where their work is valued.”

Additionally, women under 35 were twice as likely (26 percent vs. 11 percent) as those older than 35 to view a c-suite role as part of “having it all.” Conversely, women over 35 were more than twice as likely (19 percent vs. 8 percent) to name “being my own boss” as part of “having it all.”

Descano said, “I think that some of the generational differences were significant, too – which further demonstrated how our definition of success changes evolves time. Bottom line – there’s no one-size-fits-all scenario when it comes to how we define our professional and personal success as women.”

Finally, when it came to career concerns, women named work-life balance, career advancement opportunities, and finding the time to network as their top three. What’s interesting as that all three of these go hand in hand (in hand).

I think that we all struggle with work-life balance, whether we have children or not – so it wasn’t a surprise that it made the top three,” Descano said. “The fact that 32% percent struggled with finding the time to network and find a mentor really struck a chord for us, since that’s exactly what we’re hoping to achieve with the creation of Connect.”

The Connect Network

Launched last year, Connect is Citi’s LinkedIn portal for discussion and online networking – but, Descano said, it’s taken on more of a life than she’d first anticipated.

“With all of our competing priorities, it’s often hard to make time for seeking out a mentor and building your professional network – so we’ve been so pleased at the strong, engaged community of smart women that has grown within Connect – and how they’re actively networking and mentoring one another within the group.”

“Many have even started meeting offline in major cities, so it’s been wonderful to see our members proactively building their networks as a result of our efforts,” she continued. “We knew evergreen topics like work-life balance and career advancement advice would generate a lot of interest, but what surprised us is how discussion threads about less-talked about topics, like ageism, career reinvention, or bullying in the workplace have really taken off, with hundreds of women sharing personal stories and advice with one another, offering their support.”

Descano added, “We could never have predicted what direction this conversation would have taken us, but we’ve learned so much from our members along the way – which I hope will enable us to serve them with content that helps them make smart decisions throughout their careers, wherever they may take them.”

As women become more comfortable redefining success for themselves, having support from like-minded women is critical. By connecting online and face-to-face, women can help develop the strategies and relationships that will get them to where they want to go.

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  1. Henna Inam

    What a great idea for Citi’s Women & Co. to do a survey among women about the debate about “having it all”!

    In the final analysis, our definition of success (“having it all”) really must be personal. Here’s the link to a post I wrote about this topic. Hope it’s useful for readers:

    http://www.transformleaders.tv/leadership-practices-for-work-life-sanity/