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?