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Balancing Act

Is the concept of a work-family balance myth or reality?

Balancing Act

The ability to reconcile children with a career is discussed frequently these days. Before I get started, let me make a confession: until 28 weeks ago, this issue was completely off my radar.

Since graduating from law school, I had been committed 100 percent to my new, exciting working environment. My main aspiration had been to gather professional experience in all kinds of areas, industries and positions, because I had only one goal: to learn, to prove myself and to gather the utmost amount of experience in as little time as possible.

But already during my yearlong court internship and after entering my professional career (as a research associate at the higher administrative court), several female colleagues of my generation were quick to impress upon me the obvious advantages of having a career as a judge, thus implying an employment by the state. What surprised me and was beyond my comprehension at the time was that these advantages related exclusively to the supposed option of having both children and a career.

When discussing the advantages of such a career, the only arguments these women, who at the time were 23-24 years old, brought forward related to the presumed compatibility of the desire to have children (which, I am certain, in some cases cannot have been fully formed yet) and the flexibility in terms of time, which the profession of a judge would entail. According to them, such a balance would be hard to find in the private sector.

When after two years I finally decided to take the leap into the private sector, some of these female colleagues simply could not understand what had gotten into me. Switching to the “insecure” private sector in times such as these? With all its uncomfortable implications, such as 60-70-hour weeks, all-in contracts, zero private life and thus no opportunity of “getting” both children and a career? In their eyes it was obvious: I had clearly lost my mind.

Six years ago, after having worked as a legal consultant for a consulting firm, I decided to switch to the unfamiliar, but all the more fascinating gaming industry. At the time, I was 30 years old, unmarried and without children. As the gaming industry is traditionally male-dominated, I must admit I was quite surprised once I got to know and experience firsthand the family spirit of this company. The company offered me, right from the beginning, permanent opportunities for further development.

In 2011, I was appointed to the board of directors of Admiral Casinos & Entertainment AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Novomatic. In light of recent events, however, I will soon be able to report from my own experience that the value of family—and thus a balance between family and work—is not subordinated, but rather seen as equivalent and equally important.

My current situation shows that there is no contradiction in wanting to manage not only professional but also private agendas.

Let me also mention that there were the CEO and the owner of the company who spoke of the compatibility of work and family not as something special, but rather as something self-evident. For me, personally, this attitude demonstrated by our leaders is both an incentive and a responsibility to overcome the challenges of both my company and my family. I will be glad to share with you how this “plays” out.

Dr. Monika Racek has been on the board of directors of Admiral Casinos & Entertainment AG, based in Gumpoldskirchen, Austria, since June 2011. She is responsible for the protection of players, as well as human resources and legal affairs. Besides her work for Admiral, she is head of responsible gaming and corporate social responsibility (CSR) for Novomatic Group of Companies.

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