JUGGLING careers, family and social lives, women feel stretched in all directions but are unable to say no, a Sunday Life magazine survey reveals.
More than 1500 women responded to the What Women Want online survey, discussing their bodies, relationships, careers, their worries and hopes for the future. While most readers report being fairly content with their busy lives, the survey revealed that managing competing demands remains an ongoing challenge.
When asked what personal quality they would most like to nurture, one-fifth said they wanted to be more assertive and confident. A further fifth said they would like to slow down and take the time to appreciate what they have in their lives.
''I am always doing things for others and rushing around like a mad person,'' said Kylee, 42. ''I would like to be able to slow down and smell the roses but life is too busy and [there is] always something to do or someone to see or help.''
Leanne, 47, said: ''I would like to nurture the ability to say 'no' without guilt.''
Sabah, 21, felt similarly: ''I always say yes to people. I need to think about myself for a change.''
A quarter of readers said achieving work-life balance was their biggest challenge, compared with 15 per cent who nominated ageing gracefully, 13 per cent who said maintaining relationships and 10 per cent who cited managing a household and/or finances.
Despite the stresses in their lives, readers are more concerned about the sisterhood as a whole. A total of 60 per cent identified violence against women as the female issue that most urgently needs to be addressed, ahead of more support for at-home carers and closing the gender pay gap.
And while Australian women are paid, on average, 20 per cent less than their male peers, two-thirds of readers feel their work doesn't discriminate against them because they are female. Nearly half of working mothers said their careers had progressed since returning to work. Although money ranks third as a motivation for going to work, 81 per cent said they would choose a pay rise over more flexibility in their jobs.
Most women said they were happiest spending time with their partner, children or friends. They report healthy sex lives, 40 per cent having sex at least once a week. But, given a choice between sex, chocolate, a good book or sleep, more women opted for sleep than anything else.
Body image remains a concern for most readers, 70 per cent classifying themselves as overweight. Seven in 10 have been on a diet but less than half felt it helped them lose weight.
The survey revealed frustration with the fashion industry; three-quarters of respondents said they had trouble finding clothes to fit their body shape and hundreds wrote detailed critiques of modern fashion. Yet not many readers have turned to intensive cosmetic surgery to improve their looks, just 11 per cent going under the knife.