Breakthrough new book “The Orange Line” charts new course for women wishing to balance career, family, and personal life

by Dave Carew

More than 40 years after the feminist movement dawned in the U.S., women still grapple with many of the fundamental questions it first generated: Why is balancing work and family/personal life so difficult?  Why is “having it all” so elusive?  Why are women still disproportionately under-represented in our business and political leadership ranks?

In a new book entitled The Orange Line, the authors (Jodi Ecker Detjen, Michelle A. Waters, and Kelly Watson) tackle these questions head-on—with dramatic and eye-opening results. Sub-titled “A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family & Life,” the book derives its conclusions—and solutions—from in-depth interviews with 118 college-educated women. Underground Nashville recently caught up with co-author Jodi Ecker Detjen for this exclusive interview:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE:  Let me start with a “devil’s advocate” question: Since the 1970s, many books have been written about how women can best balance their work and family (or personal) lives. Why is this book needed at this particular time?

JODI ECKER DETJEN: The bad news is that this book is needed because women’s progression has stalled.  Women are approximately 50 percent of the workforce but their representation in leadership has barely moved over the past decade.  Women still make up only 14.3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 16.6 percent of board seats, 19.5 percent of law partners, 22.8 percent of available state-level executive positions, and only 18.3 percent of Congressional seats.  Further, we see in the media a plethora of judgments of what it means to be a woman today and yet, according to our research, it doesn’t mirror what women really want at all. Our interviewees told us they wanted an integrated life, with time for career, life/family, and themselves.  They want integration.  This book explains through [true] stories how women might achieve this, by looking at the underlying systemic, external rules and then exposing them as simply assumptions, not fact.

UN:  Why do women still struggle with balance more than 40 years after the dawn of the “women’s liberation” movement in the U.S.?

JED: Kathy Oneto from Anthem found that women believe they must “do it all,” “look good,” and “be nice.”  Using these “ideal womanhood” external rules as a basis, women then make decisions about their career or life (we call it “the Feminine Filter”). Because balance implies there is an either/or choice, they then have to choose: either they can have a career or they can have a life/family.

When a woman has to follow these rules instead of doing what she wants—for example, when she can’t say no to finishing a project over the weekend because she wants to “be nice”—then she must give up something else.  When she brings her own needs into the equation, then it’s not a decision about what has to be given up (i.e. the balance seesaw), it’s a negotiation for what it could look like.  For example, she could say, I have plans this weekend. What is required by when?  Then she can brainstorm various ways to meet the expectations.

UN: What is the implication of the “orange line” you refer to in your book’s title?

JED:  The Orange Line™ represents a career path characterized by both a full and enjoyable career, as well as a robust, integrated life.  Instead of a singular focus on work, the Orange Line™ individual turns early career traction into a launching pad for a whole life, with enriching and fun work, family, and life activities.  Orange Line™ individuals take a conscious approach, learning to pace themselves early on, taking breaks and enhancing their life with activities and people outside of work.  The Orange Line™ worker does not need to choose work or life; they choose both and live both fully.

UN:  On the dust-jacket of The Orange Line, you say your book is “the most radical call to arms for women in decades.” Why so? And what will women gain from embracing your radical call to arms?

JED:  It’s radical because we are exposing the underlying assumptions that hold women back and then giving them tools to reframe those assumptions, thereby eliminating the assumption’s power.  For example, instead of the assumption I am primarily responsible for home and family, we reframe it to be We are all responsible for home and family.  With that simple reframe, now child-care decisions are both parents’ responsibility, a woman’s career can be as important as her husband’s (or vice versa) because they are both responsible for the children.  Housework can be a negotiation instead of a default.  A messy house can stop being a symbol of a woman’s worth. Decisions can be made considering longer-term implications rather than to suit the current situation.

It’s freeing, it’s empowering, and it enables women to make decisions without the filter of the “ideal woman’s” rules.  She can make decisions about career and life based upon what she needs and wants—not as a sacrifice but as an equal party at the table.

For more information, please visit

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground
Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit and/or “like” the page on Facebook:

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Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

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