From time to time I invite all of the female managers in the European Economic and Social Committee’s administration – director, deputy director, heads of unit – to lunch. The occasions are intended to provide a relatively informal context where they can discuss issues of common interest or concern. At the suggestion of one of them, this time we invited Emer Daly, Director of Internal Market Policy in the European Commission, to address us on her career. I was more than happy to invite Emer, who is a longstanding friend. She is also a good example of how it is possible to juxtapose a high-flying career and a good work-life balance. One part of a high-powered couple (her husband is also a director), Emer has raised three beautiful and intelligent children whilst also holding down three positions as Head of Unit and three as Director in five different Directorates-General in the European Commission. She gave a lot of good informal advice, described some of her ‘tricks of the trade’ and provided a number of fascinating insights. One of the biggest challenges to anybody with significant commitments outside the office is the culture of presence. Long hours does not necessarily mean good quality work. On the other hand, when you are providing a secretariat for an assembly of members who understandably expect presence when they are present, it is not easy to square the circle. I don’t think we came up with any radical solutions but I hope my guests were inspired and encouraged by our distinguished guest.