Can women have it all?
I am drawn to the topic as: 1) a child of the first generation of women to enter the workforce; and 2) the father of three girls.
The latest entrant to the conversation is Anne-Marie Slaughter, an academic and former top official State Department, whose article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" appears in the current issue of The Atlantic.
Slaughter left what she describes as a "foreign policy dream job" to spend time with her two sons, a choice made by women on a regular basis.
My initial reaction was "boo hoo."
Here is a highly educated, wealthy, successful woman, married to an equally successful man, who had the luxury to leave her job in Washington D.C. and return to her hardscrabble life as a tenured dean at Princeton.
The article targets a narrow audience; women who aspire be C-level executives in the corporate world or hold top posts in government. She does allow (six pages into the article) that most women "aren't privileged enough to have choices in the first place." For example, I would love to hear the perspective of women like the miners in the film North Country.
Slaughter says women who manage to be both mothers and top professionals are either rich, superhuman or self-employed. In order for women to ascend to the top, she says, employers must offer: 1) flexible hours; 2) investment intervals (choosing career plateaus in order to maintain a family situation); and 3) family comes first management. The resulting Fortune 500 utopia is what I call "Corporate Candyland."
Here's what I know:
The notion that any of us can "have it all" is hooey. Men and women make choices in the workplace. As someone who spent years in the corporate world, I dealt with both managers and colleagues who believed family got in the way of work. Slaughter refers to "time macho," the notion that more hours worked is better, as a deterrent to productivity.
Years ago a friend told me about his boss, a woman, asking that he come in on Saturday before making it clear that she didn't want to hear "about any child care issues."
"It's called parenting," he replied.
That's a value choice, at which point any employee has to make one also, unless you think you can outlast the boss (been there, done that).
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said it best. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
What have your experiences been in the workplace? I would enjoy hearing from you.
Of course the perfect way to create work-life balance is to like us on Facebook.