The Quest to ‘Have It All’ Is Making Women Feel Sick

We're sick.
We’re sick. Photo: Wavebreak Media LTD/Corbis

The perennial question of will we ever have it all should cease, one imagines, once women have advanced into executive positions at big companies where the money is good and the career path is stable. With the expendable income for gyms and babysitters and smoothies, high-earning, high-powered women should feel like they’re in tip-top shape the minute they break that glass ceiling. Right? Right??

Not so, according to a new study in the Harvard Business Review. Meghan FitzGerald (EVP of Strategy, M&A and Health Policy at Cardinal Health) surveyed 369 American professional women at mostly Fortune 500 companies and found that women who were wealthier and more highly educated were “less likely to be overweight, more likely to get at least six hours of sleep a night, less likely to drink to excess, and less stressed.” HOWEVER: That didn’t mean they actually felt that way.

FitzGerald found that an interesting thing happened when subjects were posed questions about their feelings regarding their overall health: The women who made more money and were better educated reported feeling less healthy. Why? There could be many reasons, FizGerald suggests. The higher-earning women tended to log over 50 hours a week in their offices and take work home. Of the women who responded, the top 5 percent of earners worked the longest hours. Even with appropriate amounts of sleep and healthy eating, these women may be beholden to higher standards and thus judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which in turn makes them feel less healthy.

FitzGerald posited that perhaps higher earners “have fewer other things to worry about — like how they’re going to pay their utility bills or student loans — and so have more mental energy to devote to health concerns.”

Ah, just one more downside to the pressure of “having it all.”

‘Having It All’ Is Making Women Feel Sick