Last week, I started a discussion thread on Linked In asking for women’s reactions to Ann Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” And WOW…what a response I got! This has been an extremely controversial article that has a lot of people talking. Apparently over a million people have read the article online!
Today, I was lucky enough to be able to see Katie Couric interview Slaughter first-hand at the Aspen Ideas Festival. I wanted to share some of what was discussed, since I’ve spoken and corresponded with so many people who have strong thoughts and opinions about the piece.
Couric’s first question earlier today was, “Do you have any regrets about the title of the article?” Great question. A lot of reactions seem to be in response to the title, rather than ideas in the article itself.
Slaughter explained that in retrospect, she perhaps should’ve titled the article, “Why working women need better choices to make it to the top.” But she also acknowledged that the current title seems to have struck a chord with people. Without it, would she have been heard? Would she have inspired as much conversation in the media, and offices everywhere? Who knows?
Slaughter went on to explain that her main intention in writing the article was to raise awareness around what she calls the “accommodation gap” that women face. Why do women represent half the work force, but only about 10-20% of leadership positions? Are we not as skilled? Are we not as committed? Slaughter doesn’t think so. Her point is that many women at some point in their careers have children. And when they do, the culture of the American work place simply doesn’t allow them to balance careers with parenting. Despite advancements in technology that mean work can be elsewhere, and studies that show that more hours in the office don’t necessarily equate to more productivity, America continues to have a “time macho,” office-centered work culture. We don’t accommodate working mothers – or anyone with family obligations for that matter – who may need to have more flexible hours during certain times in their lives. We have a perception that people who take time off for family reasons lack commitment to their jobs.
Slaughter feels that if we want to see women in more senior leadership positions, today’s leaders need to address holistically the accommodation gap by shifting paradigms and changing their assumptions about how, where and when work gets done. I whole-heartedly agree with her, and intentionally try to accommodate the needs of my own team when they have personal obligations. As Slaughter points out, everyone must recognize this accommodation gap and “speak up about what they need” so that – together - we can work to close this gap.
Let me know what you think!