Sawyer Business School Professor Jodi Detjen and co-authors Michelle A. Waters and Kelly Watson tackle these tough questions in their new book: The Orange Line™ - A Women’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life.

To find the answers, they interviewed 118 college-educated women about their careers and work-life struggles. They found that most women feel constrained by outdated and unrealistic ideals.

“They feel like they have to do it all, look good, and be nice,” Detjen said. It’s a self-limiting belief system that the authors call the Feminine Filter™.

Choosing Between Work and Life

Most of the surveyed women followed similar professional tracks, starting with the “Green Line.” This is when women, typically in their 20s and 30s, prioritize their careers over other parts of their lives. They identify themselves through work, abandoning their personal needs in order to achieve professional success.

Eventually many of the women considered taking a break from their careers so they could spend more time with their families or to enrich their personal lives. On this track, called the Red Line, the career no longer comes first.

“What we found was that women love to work,” Detjen said. While some cut back their hours and focused less on their careers, only four women had currently opted out of work entirely, and of those, only two said they were never going back to work, she said.

The Red Line is often a temporary solution to balance work and life, said Detjen, who cited her own experiences. As someone who loves working, she had a hard time balancing her family life when her children were young. She felt guilty for working too much and bitter about taking time off. She needed to find a middle ground.

Taking a Holistic Approach

That’s where a new career track called the Orange Line comes in. Women on the Orange Line don’t have to choose between work and life. By reshaping their belief systems, they can have a full life that integrates work, family, and self.

Rather than trying to “do it all,” Orange Liners seek support to foster a balanced and fulfilling life. They know how to pace themselves and plan career paths that accommodate their unique needs.

This book offer tools to help women remove the Feminine Filter™ so they can see their futures more clearly. One example is the assumption that women are the primary caretakers of their families. This expectation undermines much of their power and sets them up for an impossible battle with time. By sharing the responsibility, you open the door to new solutions, and you’re no longer limited to either/or options.

“Living a full life is not about making sacrifices. You just need to dismantle the assumption that there is one right way to live your life. Each person and each family has different needs. Sometimes it’s chaos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Detjen said.