26
Nov

Helping women strike a work-life balance would change the world more than you might think.

By Anne-Marie Slaughter

I have a split personality these days. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I give speeches on work and family — and the changes America needs to make to enable more professional women to get to the top. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach a course on the politics of public policy and give speeches about a wide range of foreign-policy issues. My audiences for the work-and-family talks are often interested in foreign policy as well, but for most people in my foreign-policy audiences, that “work/family stuff” is a completely separate arena, a sideline at best. Sure, individual women and men will often tell me privately that they appreciated the essay I wrote for the Atlantic this summer on why I gave up my high-profile State Department job to return to Princeton University and my two teenage sons, but they see no real connection with the foreign-policy world.

They’re wrong. The connection is there, and it’s a very important one: If more women could juggle work and family successfully enough to allow them to remain on high-powered foreign-policy career tracks, more women would be available for top foreign-policy jobs. And that would change the world far more than you think, from giving peace talks a better chance to making us better able to mobilize international coalitions to reordering what issues governments even choose to work on.

My decision to talk in such specific gender terms is still deeply uncomfortable for many. Foreign policy is a very male world. The women who have made it are a small and close club, all committed to advancing the careers of younger women and worried that even engaging in this conversation could make it harder to break those glass ceilings. Some argue that as long as some women can juggle high-powered careers and kids at the same time, others should just follow their example and get on with the work. Others argue that my analysis shouldn’t be so globalized because it is based on my own unique situation, suggesting that I should have moved my family to Washington. Read more…

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a 2012 FP Global Thinker, is professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and was director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2011.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com (100 Global Thinkers 2012 Report, December 2012).

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