During a forum for women accountants last week in New York, the discussion, both in and outside of the continuing education sessions, often turned to work/life balance.

Rather than grumbling about the glass ceiling and unfair treatment in the workplace, the gathering of about 60 women participated in thoughtful, constructive conversations about how to realistically achieve that balance, and encouragingly, by most accounts, discovered that the old corporate model of 'up or out' is fast becoming a thing of the past.

That's not to say that the problem has been solved, but among the women who attended the National Forum for Women in Accounting program, the consensus seemed to be that things are changing at work -- whether in industry or public accounting, small firms or large. The reason is demographics, according to two of the conference speakers, Sandra Turner, a director in Ernst & Young's Cleveland office, and Marianne Heard, a Senior Tax Manger with American Express Tax & Business Services in Quincy, Mass.

Kicking off the discussion with a disclaimer that "At the end of this presentation you will not know how to do it all and have it all," Turner announced, "We're past the superwoman phenomenon of bringing home bacon and cooking it in the pan."

In their presentation, "Work and Family…The Timeless Balancing Act," Turner and Heard shared some pretty amazing statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics & Census Bureau.

Women currently make up 46 percent of the workforce in United States. That number is expected to climb to 50 percent in the next five years.

Sixty-four percent of all married women with children under age six are now working.

Dual earner households make up 41 percent of the workforce, single earner married couples account for 18 percent, and single earner adult households make up 41 percent of workplace.

What's more, the Baby Boomers are getting ready to retire, and that's going to mean a major depletion of talent, necessitating that employers find creative ways to keep talented people in the workplace.

"Workplace demographics are changing, requiring employers to fashion policies and programs to keep people," said Turner. "Expectations of younger people coming into the workplace are different. They're not as inclined to desire a title and a high position and a lot of money if it means working 90 hours a week."

"We have to acknowledge that we all have multiple roles in life and we can look as that as depleting us and tearing us apart, or we can look at that as energizing us because we're doing things we choose to do and are passionate about," she said. "We all make choices about what roles we want in our lives."

Turner's point, as she explained to me in a follow up phone conversation, is that we can have it all -- we can be employees, children, parents and siblings -- but we can't do it all at the same time.

Keep that in mind the next time you're doing your own work/life balancing act.

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