As a young and innovative organization, we’re always working towards shifting broken paradigms. Though we focus on permanently ending LRA atrocities, we encourage supporters to engage in other important conversations across the global sphere. In her recently published Atlantic article, Anne-Marie Slaughter describes her attempt to maintain a “work-family balance” throughout her two-year term as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department. Slaughter provocatively details the various socioeconomic confines that prevent women from growing maternally, while also thriving in the corporate world.
In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.
Despite having secured a highly esteemed position working under Hillary Clinton, Slaughter struggled to juggle her numerous responsibilities as a high-profile career woman. Rather than continuing to sacrifice relationships with her children, Slaughter returned to her job at Princeton, comparatively less demanding.
It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg cited the same problem; there are too few women left in the workplace after having to choose between professional success and personal fulfillment.
In her 2010 TED talk, Sandberg elaborates on the corporate disproportion.
So for any of us in this room today, let’s start out by admitting we’re lucky. We don’t live in the world our mothers lived in, our grandmothers lived in, where career chices for women were so limited. And if you’re in this room today, most of us grew up in a world where we had basic civil rights, and amazingly, we still live in a world where some women don’t have them. But all that aside, we still have a problem, and it’s a real problem. And the problem is this: women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. The numbers tell the story quite clearly. 190 heads of state- nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13 percent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats — tops out at 15, 16 percent. The numbers have not moved since 2002 and are going in the wrong direction.
Though Sandberg continues with similar concessions, she then proposes different solutions to resolve the imbalance. Instead of faulting society, she looks to her fellow women to take initiative in shaping a better corporate future for females. She encourages women to believe in themselves as they take ownership of their success.
My talk today is about what the messages are if you do want to stay in the workforce, and I think there are three. One, sit at the table. Two, make your partner a real partner. And three, don’t leave before you leave.
The mutual bottom line? Only when women harness their true potential will progress be made in the workforce.
(Photo credit: The Atlantic)