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Technology & Innovation

Why Having it All Remains Impossible for Women

Professional demands in the US typically require women to sacrifice familial responsibilities, but women should not have to choose between the two, says Anne-Marie Slaughter. 

What’s the Latest Development?

After serving as the first female director of policy planning at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter dutifully returned to her teaching post at Stanford, not only because the university wanted her back, but because she was eager to leave the best career opportunity that had ever come her way. Her decision was oft criticized by women who wanted to ‘have it all.’ “Yet the decision to step down from a position of power–to value family life over professional advancement, even for a time–is directly at odds with the prevailing social pressures on career professionals in the United States,” Slaughter said. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Through the 1970s and 80s, women climbing professional hierarchies strategically marginalized their personal lives, never mentioning that they would take time out for a child’s medical exam, so as to keep from being discriminated against. At the time, it was seen as a necessary sacrifice in order to achieve structural change which recognized women as equal in value to their male co-workers. But today, it is women’s responsibility to talk of their family life in working contexts, thereby demonstrating that society should accept women’s professional desires alongside their familial obligations. 

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