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If you are female and married and aspire to have a big career and a big family, the odds that you will be successful are working against you.  Two children are OK, but when you have three, everyone assumes "you are home with the kids, right?"

That from Laura Vanderkam, a New York City author (168 hours: You Have More
Time Than You Think
 who reported that when she mentions to people in social Vanderkam.Laura circles that "my prominent lump is baby number three, (people) either don't ask me about my job (while asking everyone else about theirs), or they say, 'kiss of death' for a career or that it will 'derail' your professional prospects."

BNET logo Aside from Ms. Vanderkam's current state of pregnancy, she was motivated to focus on this issue in her BNET blog this week after reviewing an Australian study issued in July that reported that a mere 21 percent of the mothers under the age of 30 with three children worked outside the home.  Lord knows, with three children, working inside the home is no walk in the park; the demands of being a full-time COO of the home is an incredibly tough job. Older women with three or more children were a greater part of the workforce — 55 percent versus 68 percent of that group who had only two kids, according to the survey.

As I speak at college campuses on career management, I am frequently asked by women graduate students about choices — career and life — and the prevailing mood in the marketplace about the so-called life balance issue. Will they derail their career path to the CEO spot, or one of the other C-suite posts if they take time out for a family?

In healthcare, the career versus having children question may become a more challenging for issue (choice) for women as hospitals and other providers face profound reductions in reimbursement over the next 10 years. Hospital leaders say they can see a day where they will have to do more with less, which could translate into longer hours at the office and an expanding workload for the after-hours time at home. That said, there are more than a few examples of successful women leaders who have managed to balance the rigors of two full-time jobs (their career and motherhood) while achieving impressive results in business.

Today, this is not an either or choice for women.  It does, however, require incredible discipline, enormous focus and physical and mental stamina, but there are some outstanding women executives who are able to do both, and do it well.

While it may get tougher for women executives to achieve the comfortable work-life compromise, there will always be opportunity for competent executives, regardless of their gender and number of children, the Australian study notwithstanding.

Many studies on this subject tend to reflect conventional wisdom and that is seldom right.

© 2011 John Gregory Self

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