The article all my girlfriends are talking about


I first saw this article from The Atlantic, “Why Women still Can’t Have It All,” in my Facebook news stream, posted by a girlfriend in her mid-30s. Then another friend texted it to me, and I forwarded it to another girlfriend (and my husband). The cover story has been recommended on Facebook more than 125,000 times (if you multiply that by the average user’s number of friends - 245 - you get a rough impressions figure of 30.6 million). It has garnered more than 1,500 comments already.

I know why it’s popular among my friends: they’re professionals in their thirties, many living in competitive urban markets, and whether married or single, they’re thinking about how they will balance it all when they start a family.

The piece was written by a woman who does seem to have it all: Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor, mother, and former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton.

 Slaughter describes the struggle that many women continue to face in trying to carve out family time while juggling a successful career. She surmises that America’s 24/7 corporate culture still isn’t doing enough to ensure this possibility. Interestingly to me, she notes the difference between how women of her generation (b. 1958) face this challenge compared with younger women.

The striking gap between the responses I heard from those young women (and others like them) and the responses I heard from my peers and associates prompted me to write this article. Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating “you can have it all” is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.

I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.


Slaughter joined Morning Joe Monday to discuss the article (video above).

“We can also help change the workplace,” she said. “It’s going to be hard…but the workplace is still designed for people who go in early, who work 40 straight years and don’t take time out for child-bearing or child-rearing. So there are countless ways to change it.”

It will take a new culture at work that allows for flexibility, something that should be doable given our high-tech workplaces, Slaughter writes, but also more women in leadership - a frustrating catch-22.

The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what [Justin] Wolfers and [Betsey] Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

The article all my girlfriends are talking about