Thursday, June 21, 2012

Work and Life and Women: Heavy Dose of Perspective Sauce

Anne-Marie Slaughter's post at the Atlantic is flying around the internet this morning.  Read it.  Now!  It is a long but fascinating, persuasive, engaging, articulate piece about the dilemmas of being a woman in the 21st century.  Can such a person "have it all"?  Probably not.  She addresses the perceptions, the tradeoffs, and what must change. 

Much of what she said resonated with me even though I am not a woman, and my wife is an aspiring novelist.  During my year in the Pentagon, I left for work before the family woke up and returned, exhausted, after dinner and just before my kindergarten-er went to bed.  I could only really interact with my daughter on weekends--going to relatives, going to the Mall, going to the parks nearby.  It was not a bad year to be "away" since she was engaged in her first year of school, had more family in the neighborhood than ever before or since, and was pretty easy to manage.  It was still a hard year for my wife (even if we leave aside my workplace being attacked by terrorists and by anthrax packages).  It was a hard year for me--I enjoy hanging out with my kid.  I still do although we do not have that much time left as she is now in high school.

Anyhow, the point is that Ann-Marie Slaughter did an excellent job of marshalling not only her experiences and that of people she knows but also scholarship on the issue.  A couple of her key implications are:

"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."

"Fortunately, changing our assumptions is up to us"
I not only re-tweeted her post but thanked her via twitter.  She responded back that she is getting heaps more agreement on this than on her foreign policy stances.  I am not surprised--it is much harder to say to someone like her today that she does not know what she is talking about, that it is all about the work.  Of course it is easier to disagree about her stance on Syria, where "other side" of the argument has much firmer ground to stand upon.  And I guess that is progress.  As she notes in the piece, much progress has been made since the days of Mad Men.

Again, read the piece.

No comments: