Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

AtlanticCoverSlaughterAnne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, and the mother of two teenage boys. She served as the director of policy planning at the US State Department from 2009 to 2011. I have read her recent blogpost entitled Why Family Is a Foreign-Policy Issue on the Foreign Policy blog where she discusses that “if more women could juggle work and family successfully enough to allow them to remain on high-powered foreign-policy career tracks, more women would be available for top foreign-policy jobs. And that would change the world far more than you think, from giving peace talks a better chance to making us better able to mobilize international coalitions to reordering what issues governments even choose to work on.”

In this blogpost she refers to a longer essay that she wrote earlier this year to The Atlantic magazine on  why, as the modified saying goes, “you can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” I have the feeling that what she says is still universal to most working women in many countries, and not only to those with such high-profile jobs. In her essay one of the people Slaughter quotes is Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to Bush and the counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney before stepping down to spend more time with her daughters:  “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.” This, ultimately, affects all working mothers, and actually, should affect all working parents. (On that note, one of my male colleagues is changing jobs at the end of this year because he came to the conclusion that his present position requires so much traveling that it is not compatible with raising three small children if he wants to stay committed professionally.)

Slaughter’s essay might be a bit lengthy, but it is definitely worth to read if you are interested in how to combine work and private life. Two interesting quotes might be enough to lure you into reading on:

“To many men, however, the choice to spend more time with their children, instead of working long hours on issues that affect many lives, seems selfish. Male leaders are routinely praised for having sacrificed their personal life on the altar of public or corporate service. That sacrifice, of course, typically involves their family. Yet their children, too, are trained to value public service over private responsibility. At the diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s memorial service, one of his sons told the audience that when he was a child, his father was often gone, not around to teach him to throw a ball or to watch his games. But as he grew older, he said, he realized that Holbrooke’s absence was the price of saving people around the world—a price worth paying.”

“Ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family. If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.”

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