Angela Ahrendts, one of Britain’s most successful businesswomen, has admitted that women “can’t do it all”, adding fresh fuel to the debate about whether women can combine harmony in the home with business success.
Mother of three teenagers, Ms Ahrendts is credited with reviving the fortunes of Burberry, the fashion brand where she is chief executive, and establishing herself as one of the most astute in the sparse ranks of female bosses.
Does she achieve a balance that suits the family as well as shareholders? She thinks so but works hard at it.
Her working day starts at 4.35am, but she rations out-of-hours work to one evening a week and insists on arriving home on Friday after travelling.
She has turned down invites to the Oscars because: “It’s not more important than my husband. It’s not more important than my kids. It’s not more important than Burberry”.
She said in an interview with The Sunday Times: “I don’t want to be a great executive without being a great mum and a great wife. I don’t want to look back and say I wish I had done things differently. Balance is a really big word for me.
“It’s one of the most important parts of my job, showing that you can’t do it all.”
Ms Ahrendts’ comments are the latest in a debate led by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Ms Sandberg has called for working women to “lean in” to their careers and demand husbands bear a greater share of the domestic burden.
While both are American, they appear to have different takes on the issue.
Sandberg believes women are penalised at work because of gender stereotypes, one of the themes in her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”
She has said: “Give us a world where half our homes are run by men and half our institutions are run by women. I’m pretty sure that would be a better world. Our culture needs to find a robust image of female success that is first, not male and second, not a white woman on the phone, holding a crying baby.”
Ms Ahrendts says it is impossible to have it all. “I’m here to run Burberry and I’m here to be a really great wife to my husband. And we have three amazing teens so that’s three really big jobs,” she said.
She tries to lead by example. “We have a lot of women working here and I always tell them they are mothers first. Those children are their legacy and they have partners and that’s a big obligation.”