Obama official who quit: ‘Women still can’t have it all’


If, like me, you’ve pondered issues of work-life balance but try to steer clear of the “mommy wars” that pit women against each other based on their life choices, the latest cover article in the Atlantic is worth a read.

Anne-Marie Slaughter held a senior job in the Hillary-Clinton-led State Dept. from 2009 until last year when she quit to go back to a job as a professor at Princeton — and to spend more time with her two teenage sons.

Now she has written a blunt article about her personal struggles and about what she calls cheery “half-truths” that women tell themselves. “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” Slaughter also gives advice to women trying to build careers and raise families, and suggests policy changes and attitude changes for the private sector and government.

A few of her observations that resonated with me:

1) The key question is whether a job allows you to control your own schedule.

2) The timing of when you have your kids matters.

3) “Women should think about the climb to leadership not in terms of a straight upward slope, but as irregular stair steps, with periodic plateaus (and even dips) when they turn down promotions to remain in a job that works for their family situation… I think of these plateaus as ‘investment intervals’… ”

She also makes an interesting point about how employers may draw different conclusions about an employee who gets up early to train for marathons versus an employee who gets up early to take care of kids — even if the self-discipline and commitment is the same.

A long and interesting read. I am still digesting it.

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Obama official who quit: ‘Women still can’t have it all’

  1. Indeed a good read. I remember reading her articles in my foreign policy courses way back when. Coming from Quebec, I would add one more thing, good, licenced, affordable (as in government-subsidized) daycare is a must. Not everyone can afford round-the-clock nannies. Also, government-sponsored extended parental leave (I don’t know how Americans do it, a couple of months is simply not enough). And having extended family nearby is a huge help. I know that highly mobile professional classes can’t always count on that, but it’s so important for kids to have a stable, extended family circle to develop close relationships with. Those ties will pay off huge dividends when they reach the difficult teenage years and beyond.

    • One of the biggest losses for women in recent history was Paul Martin losing to Harper so that the child subsidy was implemented rather than daycare (although maybe Martin could have moved a bit faster on an old promise).

      it could have been a life saving game changer for women of all walks of life.

  2. I’m sure I’ll be lambasted as a misogynistic white male, but here goes…
    When will we see the cover story at the Atlantic titled “Why men can’t have it all?” Child bearing is undoubtedly difficult for women, but nobody ever mentions the tolls it takes on men. The man in the family is often required to work more so Mom has time to look after the kids, so they can buy a bigger house with a yard for the kinds to play in. The man will be forced to pass up promotions or new employment opportunities for the sake of familial stability.

    Framing this as if it’s somehow a shortcoming of our society that only negatively affects women (and is an example of sexism ingrained in our culture) is absurd . It’s a big decision that people make, and like most big decisions it has big consequences… for men and women. Child rearing isn’t easy, but can be (I’m told) very rewarding. You can’t always have your cake and eat it too.

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