NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST, NPR, AND THE ECONOMIST
When Anne-Marie Slaughter accepted her dream job as the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department in 2009, she was confident she could juggle the demands of her position in Washington, D.C., with the responsibilities of her family life in suburban New Jersey. Her husband and two young sons encouraged her to pursue the job; she had a tremendously supportive boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and she had been moving up on a high-profile career track since law school. But then life intervened. Parenting needs caused her to make a decision to leave the State Department and return to an academic career that gave her more time for her family.
The reactions to her choice to leave Washington because of her kids led her to question the feminist narrative she grew up with. Her subsequent article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” created a firestorm, sparked intense national debate, and became one of the most-read pieces in the magazine’s history.
Since that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter has pushed forward, breaking free of her long-standing assumptions about work, life, and family. Though many solutions have been proposed for how women can continue to break the glass ceiling or rise above the “motherhood penalty,” women at the top and the bottom of the income scale are further and further apart.
Now, in her refreshing and forthright voice, Anne-Marie Slaughter returns with her vision for what true equality between men and women really means, and how we can get there. She uncovers the missing piece of the puzzle, presenting a new focus that can reunite the women’s movement and provide a common banner under which both men and women can advance and thrive.
With moving personal stories, individual action plans, and a broad outline for change, Anne-Marie Slaughter reveals a future in which all of us can finally finish the business of equality for women and men, work and family.
“I’m confident that you will be left with Anne-Marie’s hope and optimism that we can change our points of view and policies so that both men and women can fully participate in their families and use their full talents on the job.”—Hillary Rodham Clinton
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Less Can Be More
During the 2014 Super Bowl, Cadillac ran an ad that was meant to be a celebration of American workaholism. It showed a clean- cut fifty-something white man with blazing blue eyes walking and talking his way through his mansion while extolling the virtues of the American work ethic. “Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café, they take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we’re crazy, driven, hardworking believers,” says the guy, who looks like a car- toon version of a one-percenter, to the camera. The moral of the ad: If you just work hard enough, avoiding vacation and “creating your own luck,” anything, including the ownership of a $75,000 car, is possible.
The ad drove me crazy. The man was so smug and so com- pletely out of touch with what I consider to be the real values that Americans have traditionally proclaimed and tried to pass down to their children. Yes, Europeans and others often criticize Amer- ican culture for being materialistic, but when Thomas Jefferson described humankind’s “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence, he took English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke’s “life, liberty, and estate” and substituted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And as the behavioral psychologists tell us, happiness is more likely to be found in the pleasures of human connection and experience—a good meal, a play or movie or sporting event, a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of champagne— than it is in an endless catalogue of possessions.
I wasn’t alone in my reaction. One reporter wrote, “You know what really needs attention? What working like crazy and taking no time off really gets us[?]” It gets Americans to the grave earlier, it’s made us more anxious than people in other developed coun- tries, and it’s created a group of people more disengaged from their jobs than in countries with more leisure time.
In the end, it was New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin who made the most damning argument against the commercial. As we were talking about it, he pointed out that Cadillac was disparaging the vacation-loving Europeans in an effort to sell luxury cars to a wealthy U.S. audience who prefer German BMWs and Mercedes. Last I checked, German workers get a mandated minimum twenty days of vacation every year.
It’s that simple. German workers work at least two weeks a year less than American workers do and yet produce better cars. Perhaps that is because German managers still subscribe to the empirical findings that led Henry Ford to establish an eight-hour workday in 1914. When Ford looked at in-house research, he realized that manual laborers were finished after eight hours of work a day. After he cut hours, errors went down, and productiv- ity, employee satisfaction, and company profits went up.
We actually have a growing body of data in support of the proposition that working less means working better. According to much more recent research, people who work principally with their brains rather than their hands have an even shorter amount of real daily productivity than manual laborers. Microsoft em- ployees, for instance, reported that they put in only twenty-eight productive hours in a forty-five-hour workweek—a little less than six hours a day. Futurist Sara Robinson found the same thing: knowledge workers have fewer than eight hours a day of hard mental labor in them before they start making mistakes.
This relationship between working better and working less holds particularly true in any job requiring creativity, the well- spring of innovation. Experts on creativity emphasize the value of nonlinear thinking and cultivated randomness, from long walks to looking at your environment in ways you never have before. Making time for play, as well as designated downtime, has also been found to boost creativity. Experts suggest we should change the rhythm of our workdays to include periods in which we are simply letting our minds run wherever they want to go. Without play, we might never be able to make the unexpected connections that are the essence of insight.
Table of Contents
"It's Such a Pity You Had to Leave Washington" xi
Part I Moving Beyond Our Mantras 3
1 Half-Truths Women Hold Dear 7
2 Half-Truths About Men 37
3 Half-Truths in the Workplace 51
Part II Changing Lenses 77
4 Competition and Care 81
5 Is Managing Money Really Harder than Managing Kids? 101
6 The Next Phase of the Women's Movement Is a Men's Movement 126
7 Let It Go 148
Part III Getting to Equal 171
8 Change the Way You Talk 175
9 Planning Your Career (Even Though It Rarely Works Out as Planned) 187
10 The Perfect Workplace 207
11 Citizens Who Care 231
Reading Group Guide
1. Why does Anne-Marie think that the work of early feminists, from Susan B Anthony to Gloria Steinem, remains unfinished? Do you agree or disagree?
2. Anne-Marie writes her husband taught her to "act like a man." What does she mean by that and do you think it's an important lesson for women in work and life situations? (p. 17)
3. Anne-Marie tells the story of Carey Goldberg who left a job for the New York Times for more flexible hours at the Boston Globe. Did she “opt out” or was she “shut out” by the Times’ refusal to change its work practices? (p. 22)
4. Discuss some of the practical issues Anne-Marie raises when it comes to a woman raising a family and having a career. Why does she argue women should have children earlier? Do you agree or disagree? Is egg freezing the answer? Or should we be providing earlier windows where it is possible to slow down but stay on a career path? (p. 33)
5. Anne-Marie quotes a statistic that says 50% of millennial men say being a good parent is one of the most important things in their life (versus 39% of Generation X.) Have you noticed this change among the younger generation? (p. 50)
6. In her chapter on the workplace, Anne-Marie makes the case that "working less is working better". What do you make of her claims and do you agree based on your career and work life? (p. 71)
7. In her important chapter "Competition and Care" Anne-Marie writes "Not valuing caregiving is the taproot, the deeper problem that gives rise to distortion and discrimination in multiple areas of American society….Care can provide a new political banner under which all women can unite." What does Anne-Marie notice in the work place, society and our current laws that make care giving unvalued? (p. 87)
8. Talk about the letter Anne-Marie received from Tanya Sockol Harrington and the idea that questions of work/life balance are geared to a wealthy and educated audience. Does Anne-Marie's assertion that caregiving is the common challenge for us all ring true to you? (p. 90)
9. What do you think about Anne-Marie's statement that we should value the jobs that involve caring for others, such as child or elder care workers, nurses, teachers, and coaches, every bit as much as money managers or computer scientists? (p. 106)
10. Why was reading Milton Mayeroff's On Caring such a revelation for Anne-Marie? While reflecting on the book Anne-Marie writes: "the process of nurturing and teaching means that you are pouring your own experience, values, and views into the other person while at the same time, if you are doing it right, giving her space to be herself." Talk a little bit about this idea and your experiences helping younger people and/or how mentors helped you. (p. 111)
11. Why does Anne-Marie think the next phase of the women's movement is a man's movement - and "the biggest unconquered world open to men is the world of caring for others"? Do you agree or disagree with her assertion? (p. 139)
12. Anne-Marie comments that money and masculinity are deeply intertwined. She mentions the awkward scenarios that have arisen when her husband admits to his friends and colleagues that she out-earns him. Do you have any friends or family where the woman is the primary bread winner? How is it handled and talked about? (p. 143)
13. Anne-Marie tells the story of Rob Boland who took a less demanding job and then became a lead parent to spend more time with his kids. Do you agree with Anne-Marie it would be beneficial if more men followed suit? (p. 145)
14. Anne-Marie mentions she does the taxes for her family, but her husband plans the vacations and she calls these "household divisions of duties where gender stereotypes don't necessarily operate." Can you think of tasks like this in your family? Why does child rearing fall more along gender lines? Can you imagine how it would be possible to "stop seeing the home as gendered place" as Anne-Marie quotes Abigail Rine saying? (p. 149, 169)
15. Anne-Marie discusses how small phrases can make a big impact in revealing our values: such as the use of the title “Ms.”, “Mr. Mom”, "stay at home mom," and references to Anne-Marie leaving her State Department job as "opting out." Are there phrases that you've come across in your home or work life that suggest preconceived notions? Are there additional points you would add to the "A New Vocabulary of Real Equality" section? (p. 183)
16. How does Anne-Marie think the idea of a career has changed over the years and what do you make of the concept of "the career portfolio"? Are there more opportunities now to have different skills and experiences? (p. 191)
17. Do you think there's more potential now to continue to accomplish your goals later in life as Anne-Marie suggests? Do you have friends or family who've had a second surge - "a time of renewed energy, focus and commitment to a professional goal?" Are there projects that you'd like to take on in Phase 3 of your life? (p. 196)
18. Anne-Marie discusses the challenges when both partners in a relationship have ambitious career goals and the wish to raise children. She encourages young people to have a conversation that faces this scenario in specific terms. Did you have a similar conversation or would you before starting a relationship? What do you think about the questions Anne-Marie suggests and are there any questions you would add to her list? (p. 203)
19. Anne-Marie comments on how work is changing, with companies allowing greater flexibility, and the on-demand economy with services such as Uber. What are the advantages and risks in careers that no longer revolve around a single company? Do you have any friends or family who freelance and do they prefer the work to traditional employment? What does Anne-Marie mean when she says the sharing economy must become a caring economy? (p.210)
20. Anne-Marie suggests improving caregiving in the US can be a bipartisan issue as "the disagreement around care is not as much about whether we should be devoting resources to caring as it is about who, in fact, should be doing the caring." Of the ideas that Anne-Marie suggests on p. 233 which do you think are most important? (p. 233-235)