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Former Harvard Law Professor Says Women Can’t Have it All
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Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former professor at Harvard law, gave up her State Department job because of demands from her family. She said recently that women cannot have it all when she wrote in Atlantic magazine. Slaughter wrote that she loved her “foreign policy dream job.” That job was working as the director of policy planning at the State Department. Because of the job, Slaughter was out of her Princeton, N.J. home five days per week. This forced her husband to take care of the couple’s children, 14 and 12. Slaughter said that the 14-year-old was “skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him.” Slaughter worked for Princeton as an international affairs professor and took a two-year absence.

In the Atlantic article, Slaughter wrote the following:

  
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“Suddenly, finally, the penny dropped,” Slaughter writes. “All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family … I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

Slaughter said that she thinks women can still have it all “but not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.” One of the problems today is that of ‘time macho’ in our culture. This problem rewards working longer and harder than others in the office. Slaughter wrote that the ‘time macho’ problem is most acute in law firms, saying that the “cult of billable hours provides exactly the wrong incentives for employees who hope to integrate work and family.”

Slaughter said that there are some solutions, including changing the arc of a successful career and changing the culture of the office. Slaughter said that women should think of climbing the ladder upwards like it has ‘irregular stair steps.’ She cites first lady Michelle Obama as a major example. Obama went from working at a high profile law firm to the city government in Chicago to the University of Chicago before her daughters were born.

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