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IDEAS. STRATEGY. TACTICS. INNOVATION. INSPIRATION.

Anne Marie Slaughter On Creating An Equitable Society



Anne-Marie Slaughter is an American international lawyer, foreign policy analyst, political scientist and public commentator. From 2002 to 2009, she was the Dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs. Slaughter was the first woman to serve as the Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department from January 2009 until February 2011 under U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is a former president of the American Society of International Law and the current President and CEO of New America. Slaughter has received many awards for her work and is the author of several books. Her most recent book is Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics. She revived a national debate over gender equality in the 21st century in The Atlantic article titled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." Here, she offers advice and possible solutions for a more equitable society.


Your 2012 Atlantic article ignited a huge debate around women and work/life balance. What was the initial purpose in writing it?

I wrote the article to express that having it all, in my view, means having the same work and family choices as men do. It's that simple. It doesn't mean having everything you want. Nobody has everything they want. Nobody should have everything they want. That's not real life. That's a fairy tale.


In the 70s, the idea was a woman could have a career just like a man could, in addition to a family as she'd always had a family. That was considered having it all. The point of the article was to point out that having both family and a career is still very hard.


What compelled you to write the book Renewal?

Almost 2 million people read the piece in The Atlantic, and I received over 1,000 emails as a result. I wrote the book to give a voice to those that wrote to me. Women from different ages and walks of life reached out. Many of them told me they cried when they read the article because they saw themselves reflected in it.


These women told me stories of how they came out of school with ambitions to make family and career work, but things came up preventing it from happening. A child got sick, or a spouse got sick. Women wrote to me saying that maybe if they woke up at 4 am instead of 5 am, they could have the work-life balance they desired. They told me they’d had to compromise on their desires and now felt like they'd failed.


In the 70s, the idea was a woman could have a career just like a man could, in addition to a family as she'd always had a family. That was considered having it all. The point of the article was to point out that having both family and a career is still very hard.

What are two or three workplaces changes you would suggest that would better support women and working mothers?

The simplest would be to get together with the folks in your office and decide the ideal time for people to be in the office. It would be 10 am-2 pm for most, after kids go to school and before kids come home. That timeframe would be the only time to schedule meetings.


Michele Flournoy, the third-highest woman in the Pentagon, had a policy where employees had every 10th day off. Every 10th day, her staff could schedule doctor's appointments, go to the store and do all the things people try to cram into the weekend.


It comes down to playing the long game. We want employees who are happy and healthy and productive over time, rather than people who are going to burn out and drop out because they are squeezed dry. That's a national issue. That's not just a women's issue. That's a universal issue.