Career vs. Family: Can Women Have Both?

Recently, Anne-Marie Slaughter (former director of policy planning for the US State Department) published an article that set off a flurry of media attention. The article, called “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All“, focused on the conflict of interest women face in having both a high-profile career and a family. As women continue to marry and have children at a later age in the interest of professional advancement, many wonder how they will juggle the multiple demands between their professional and personal lives.

According to Slaughter, it does not matter at what age a woman has children, if a woman has a supportive husband who will take on additional parenting responsibilities, or the level of commitment a woman has to her job.  In Slaughter’s eyes, the true issue is the structure of the workplace: for women to achieve, flexibility is key. Women must “[change] social policies and [bend] career tracks to accommodate [their] choices, too.” As it currently stands, women can’t possibly be everything to everyone.

Suzanne Venker published an article in response called Ms. Slaughter Still Doesn’t Get It.From Venker’s point of view, career success should not come at the expense of children. She critiques Slaughter and women like her for looking for ways to change the workplace structure; rather than trusting the intuition that tells them to put family first. She paints a vivid picture: “[the] exact scenario — Mom is thriving at work, children are suffering at home — is one of millions that takes place throughout the country. The truth is that which none of us is allowed to say: Children are suffering — and desperately need their mommies.”  Venker emphasizes the need for women to adjust their expectations and redefine success.

What do you believe? Have we come far enough that it is possible for women to have a high powered career and still be a good mother or wife – or does one come at the expense of the other? If you are a mother (or a father), do you agree that “men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job” as Slaughter asserts?

Comments

  1. It may take a little planning , a lot of family support and a strong will but IT CAN BE DONE!

  2. It is possible to have a high powered career because the money earned allows for nannies and day care center for the children. However, parenting via phone and instructing the nannies is time consuming. From my observations at work and personal experience, the women with managerial jobs took plenty advantage of the ‘work from home’ flexible time programs available to them whereas the men with the same positions and families hardly did. If a career woman has help from her husband and other extended family members, then their career path is made not only possible but also successful.

  3. I believe it is possible – but not without a lot of extra planning, and work from the family; both mom and dad. Its about balance on the long term meaning like any scales they shift and tip one way or the other throughout the journey but if they net net come back to the middle at some point then I think you are doing okay!

  4. Read”What is the price…career vs family…” Great book for discussing this topic.

  5. Thanks – I’ve added that to my list. I’m currently reading “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg… also has some good advice.

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