Skip to main content

As soon as I finish writing this column, I will be quitting to spend more time with my family.

Actually, that's not true. I spend plenty of time with my family and enjoy writing this column way too much to let it go.

But even if it were true, my exit probably wouldn't constitute "news." The media almost never talk about everyday professionals stepping away from work to spend more time with their families, to travel or just generally enjoy their lives.

Story continues below advertisement

Average wage earners who "opt out" of the rat race aren't fodder for endless conversations about work-life balance. Were I to quit working before retirement age, my decision wouldn't be lauded by the masses, who would not publicly congratulate me for my successes and my sudden epiphany that family matters.

The same cannot be said about the string of successful men, who over the past few months have decided to give up their multimillion-dollar paycheques in favour of more quality time with their families.

The latest in this list is 52-year-old Patrick Pichette. The Montreal-born chief financial officer of Google recently said that he was inspired to leave his coveted role after reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with his wife of 25 years. As they looked out over the plains of the Serengeti, she asked him why they couldn't just keep travelling – and he didn't have a good answer.

While "spending more time with my family" happens to be the face-saving line many people use when they've been ousted from a role, Mr. Pichette's story seems to make sense. According to reports, he earned over $5-million a year at Google, so he had likely stashed away enough to last through retirement.

Despite this, not everyone believes him.

Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times columnist, argues that it's a strange decision for someone whose children are already grown up. Cynically, or perhaps pragmatically, she notes that he wants to leave the door open for "leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.

"In other words, this isn't retirement at all. It's a mere holiday, after which he is open to further job offers," Ms. Kellaway writes.

Story continues below advertisement

Still, the hundreds of comments on his blog post suggest that most people envy and admire his decision. And we do seem to laud this epiphany that family matters, at least when it's uttered by exceptionally successful men.

Not so women. When they leave demanding jobs to spend time taking care of children, aging parents or even just manage to fit in a few more yoga classes, their decisions are viewed as unfortunate evidence that women just can't have it all.

Remember when Anne-Marie Slaughter publicly announced in 2012 that she was leaving her high-profile job at the U.S. State Department to spend more time with her family? It launched an endless dialogue on the sad state of women in the workforce.

We – myself included – applaud women like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer for taking on top jobs while pregnant or with young kids. No woman wants to be accused of failing to Lean In as Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg warned a generation of women just a few short years ago. Women are told they need to push harder, faster and further to get ahead. When men step down, they are heroes; when women step down, they are piteous failures.

Mr. Pichette is the latest in a list of high-profile men congratulated for stepping down. A few months ago, Mohamed el-Erian, the former head of global investment at Pacific Investment Management Co. (Pimco), said he decided to step down after his 10-year-old daughter presented him with a list of 22 important events he has missed owing to his excessive work schedule, including her first day at school and a parent-teacher meeting.

Then there was Uber CFO Brent Callinicos, who said he was resigning for similar reasons.

Story continues below advertisement

Refreshingly, Max Schireson acknowledged the double standard when he wrote about leaving his post as CEO of MongoDB noting that Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, gets asked how she balances being a mom and a CEO. So does PepsiCo's CEO Indra Nooyi.

"As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO," he wrote.

While I'd like to applaud the men who have made it to the C-Suite at tremendous personal sacrifice (and what I assume must be an incredibly accommodating spouse in the background), it's about time the double standard was put out of business. Let's stop congratulating them when they decide to be more engaged fathers, husbands and sons, while chastising women for doing the same.

Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter