by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Jack Welch  was never my business idol, anyway. A little too militaristic, kinda like a junta leader minus the camouflage. Overly simplistic in his view of business. Arrogant in that “I’m a smart white man and I rule the world” kinda way.
His approach to his personal life didn’t leave much room for respect; he left wife number one after 28 years and then wife number two after 14 years to marry wife number three, Suzy Wetlaufer, who served briefly as the editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review before being forced to resign after starting an affair with Welch while interviewing him for the magazine.
But now he’s really stepped in the squishy stuff.
At a keynote speech delivered for the June 28 Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans (for which insiders report he earned over $100,000 in speaker fees) he spoke about a subject I don’t think he knows much about: work/life balance. "There's no such thing as work-life balance," the former General Electric Co. Chief Executive. "There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."
Duh! Did it really take him four decades working at and running the largest and most valuable company in the world to figure this out? There is nothing revolutionary or particularly insightful in what Jack Welch said. For a lot less than $100K, I could have told the crowd that (and a lot more).
It’s the sexist consolations Welch added that raised millions of hackles and earned him a few more minutes of infamy in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post , and American Public Media’s Marketplace .
“We’d love to have more women moving up faster,” Mr. Welch said. Squish. “But they’ve got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one.” He added that those women who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if “you’re not there in the clutch.”
Taking time off for family “can offer a nice life,” Mr. Welch said, “but the chances of going to the top on that path” are smaller. “That doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice career,” he added. Squish squish.
Only people with mammary glands need to worry about balance? Only women wonder whether taking those half-day Fridays means getting passed over for promotions? Only women worry about who’s going to stay home when their kids are sick? Only women need to figure out how to juggle work and family without losing our jobs or our sanity or both? It’s somehow fair to penalize women who want to be star performers and involved moms at the same time?
Screw you, Jack Welch.
No one is ever going to find balance if we’ve got to work for men who think like this – or if we marry them, for that matter. Welch’s words (“a nice career,” please!) patronize women by making the balancing act our job only. He rationalizes prejudice against women with families who’ve worked hard for promotions and get passed over or paid less despite their merits. Welch insults men by suggesting that male employees don’t care about finding time for their families or themselves. And he marginalizes millions of children with his breezy logic that ambitious people are justified in shunting aside their dependents in order to get ahead.
Squish. Squish. Squish.