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Unfinished Business

Women, Men, Work, Family

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
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Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Unfinished Business (2015) offers a frank analysis of a pressing question. Is it really possible for men and women to “have it all” in our modern society? Can we hope to have a great family life and great career? As these blinks reveal, striking a balance between the personal and the professional isn’t only possible; it’s easier than you might think.

Key idea 1 of 7

Even today, it’s usually the woman who ends up sacrificing her career plans for the family.

Men can have it all – a thriving career and a happy family. But if you’re a woman, these two goals might seem completely incompatible.

To thrive in any highly competitive field, you have to commit the lion’s share of your time and energy to your work. And if a couple has children, it’s much easier for the man to do this.

That’s because most people still adhere to traditional gender roles: the man is supposed to provide for the family financially and the woman is expected to raise the children and be warm and nurturing.

Consequently, most women are willing to support their husband’s decision to substitute time with the family for time at work.

But even if they make a concerted effort to commit to their job and meticulously plan every move of their life, women still can’t control the fate of their career and family.

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, thinks that anything is possible if you just lean in to your career. But it doesn’t matter how much you’re leaning in when you have two kids back home and an inflexible work schedule; the unpredictability of life will eventually force you to shift your focus away from work.

Some women hope that marrying a progressive partner will result in a fairer distribution of domestic responsibility – thus enabling them to pursue their career. However, this rarely works out.

In reality, most men are reluctant to set aside their career goals. For instance, a woman whom the author met at a conference shared that just a fraction of her intelligent and driven female friends, all graduates of Harvard Business School, had met their career goals, despite marrying peers who had pledged they’d be equal partners once married. Once they started a family, the men were unwilling to scale back on their own career, so the women had to sacrifice their goals and assume primary responsibility for childcare.

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