Photograph by Sam Edwards — Getty Images
By Evin Shutt
July 13, 2016

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: “What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?” is written by Evin Shutt, ‎chief operating officer and partner at 72andSunny.

There are many barriers preventing women from achieving leadership positions, all of which are interrelated. To rise to the C-suite, we need to keep women in the workforce. And to do that, women need to know they have support from the women around them, whether they’re in leadership positions or not. Male colleagues need to support and acknowledge their female counterparts for their contributions. And most importantly, workingwomen need to know that success at work isn’t contradictory to success at home. Here’s how we can move past these barriers:

Support each other
Thankfully, support is becoming more prevalent as more people join in the conversation. The rise of different groups, like Lean In, Girls’ Lounge, etc., bring women together for this reason. Workingwomen need to look at their own girl squads at work and make sure they’re surrounding themselves with people who support their ambitions.

Regardless of whether female leaders wanted to be advocates or not for grooming other women into leadership roles, it’s a responsibility we all share.

Engage men in the conversation
Female leadership support groups are incredible, and we need them to continue to grow and pick up steam. But the real change happens when as many male leaders attend these events as females. More men in leadership positions need to commit to, and believe in, women leaders.

See also: The Word That’s Hurting Female Leaders

Ambition and motherhood can exist simultaneously
Both are good, so let’s stop trying to pull them apart. Many of the most ambitious people I know are parents—moms and dads. And speaking from personal experience, I became significantly more effective and impactful at my job after becoming a mother. I’m more decisive and appreciative in my career than I’ve ever been in my life.

I’m more conscious of my time management at work because that’s precious time I’ve committed to outside of the home. At home, I’m more present in the moment because that time with my family is precious. I love my kids and husband, but I also know I’m a better mother and partner because I work, collaborating alongside creative, passionate people.

 

Perfection is impossible
The pretense of having it all and being perfect at everything has set this illusion for women. It’s daunting and unrealistic. What you want in your career—and what your family needs—can coincide. Women and men need to share their complete stories—both successes and failures—at work and at home. This requires vulnerability and admitting that we can’t always keep it all together. But it’s the truth. It’s a challenge to do what we love in every part of our lives, but we’re all finding ways to make it work and should celebrate the little victories—even if the biggest win of the day is getting out of the house without spit-up on your jacket.

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