Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Annika Sorenstam's Choice: Every Working Woman's Dilemma

At first, I was flummoxed by Annika Sorenstam’s surprise announcement that she was “stepping away from competitive golf” at the end of the 2008 season. As one of the greatest female golfers of all time and with many more playable years left, why, at age 37, would she do that?

Watching her press conference and many others that followed, I began to understand---the peacefulness of her demeanor spoke volumes. She is ready to give back more. Her raison d’etre has shifted toward family and the fullness of life in general. This is every working woman’s dilemma.

To improve the quality of life for all peoples on this planet, women have a huge role to play. Many studies have demonstrated that organizations with women represented well at all levels, perform better than those who have thinning ranks of women, the higher one goes toward the top. For example, Fortune 500 companies with the most women on their boards outperform those with the fewest—52 per cent higher return on equity and 42 per cent higher return on sales (Why Women Should Rule the World, Dee Dee Myers, President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary). While this is good news, it only creates more stress for women. To effect change, we need to be where the action is. But, how does one choose between family and everything else?

The irony is that without women’s involvement, extensively and persistently, their voices will not be heard to the extent needed to make raising families easier. Take Canada’s situation on day care. Out of 14 industrialized countries, we are dead last in public spending on early childhood education and care, according to Stats Canada. Furthermore, while Canadian women outnumber men at university, and 75 per cent of women with children under 5 are in the workforce in Canada, women comprise just 30 per cent of the legislators in Ottawa (the average for Canada’s Conservative party is 16.3 per cent). Yet, in Spain, for example, women are in the majority at the elected level. What a difference that must make in better understanding the policies needed to raise the next generation while tackling the tough global issues of the day!

Annika’s story resonates. Her “axial spirit”, the desire to find greater meaning in life by being other-directed, is universal. She is joining a legion of women who have stepped out of the limelight and the “rat race” to attend to other pressing matters. If history is any predictor, she will return to the limelight after a decade or so. But, it won’t be to compete competitively. After time out to reflect and be involved in different ways in sports and in life (raise a family), she’ll be fighting with renewed vigour for policy changes in the world of sports that will impact the lives of many young people. At least, that’s my wish…..

No comments: