'Oxford Women in Politics with Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter'

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the President and CEO of the New America and the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Dr. Slaughter was the first woman to be the director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State. She served in this capacity from 2009-2011. Moreover, Dr. Slaughter served as the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton from 2002-2009.

In, 2012 Anne-Marie Slaughter published an article titled “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” in the Atlantic, which became the magazines’ most ever widely read article and served as a cultural touch point, ushering a discussion about gender equality in the United States and elsewhere. Dr. Slaughter received her MPhil and DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford.

Dr. Slaughter’s recently published book, “Unfinished Business” discusses workplace policies, the value we place on care of children and other loved ones, and discusses her evolving views since her article in the Atlantic.

To listen to the podcast, please scroll to the end.


Below are highlights from Dr. Slaughter’s lecture:

On the state of women’s equality in the U.S.:

If we really want to get to male-female equality, if we want to finish the revolution that second-wave feminism began in roughly the early 1960s, we have to stop focusing on women and start focusing on care. So this is not to say we should not try to advance women in many ways. I’m all for that. I want to see women presidents, in politics and every other way. I want ultimately a world where there’s as many women in power as there are men in power. But to get there we have to do something different. We’re stuck at 20 percent, and we’ve been stuck at 20 percent since the 1990s, and in the United States the number of women in the workforce is going down, not up. We are behind Japan in the number of women in the workforce. Behind Japan. And that is for many reasons but the biggest one is that it is so expensive to work and have children that it is cheaper for women to stay home and take care of their kids. So in many ways we’re starting to go backwards.

On the devaluation of women’s traditional work:

So why care? Because in liberating women—and I was born in 1958, so my life really has spanned the second-wave feminist movement—we wanted to liberate women, but in doing so we wanted to liberate women to do what their fathers did, not what their mothers did. I was raised to be like my dad. I was going to be a lawyer, and that’s what it meant to be a feminist. I was going to do what women had not been allowed to do before. I was going to be like my dad. I certainly didn’t want to be like my mom. My mom was a homemaker. She’s also a professional artist, and if you’d asked me before this book I would have told you all about how she was a professional artist. I would never have mentioned that her primary job was raising her children and knitting our family together. In fact—we valued women, but we devalued traditional women’s work. It took both sides…We can’t get to full equality without not only valuing women and valuing what men do, but valuing women’s traditional work as well. 

On care as a workplace and national policy issue:

In the workplace we have to make room for care because we no longer have the infrastructure of care we once had, which meant women at home. Everybody has to take care of everybody else. All workers will have care responsibilities at some point in their lives, if not for children then for parents because you can’t choose whether or not you have parents, or to a spouse or to friends, community, your constructed family. But it’s very unlikely that you’ll go through your life without care responsibilities to someone at some point. And we need to think about that as a social and a workplace issue. And as a national policy issue. That’s what I do. I do foreign policy and now increasingly public policy generally. There is no single more important activity for a nation than investing in its children 0 to 5. No single more important activity. We now know that the first five years of a child’s life you are not just teaching that child information. You are shaping his or her brain. You are determining what that child will be able to learn and do for the rest of his or her life.

On changing the way boys are raised:

Men are still being socialized the way women were being socialized in the 1950s. Or put another way, we raise our daughters radically differently than our mothers were raised, or at least if you’re my age that’s true. Where we raise our daughters to say, you have every opportunity, you can be anything you can be, but we also assume they will be mothers or daughters or wives. We assume that will be an important part of their lives. And when we’re mentors or teachers we talk to younger women about, yes, how are you going to combine your career and your family?

Men are still raised to be providers. That is their identity in life. No one thinks when you’re raising boys that maybe your primary identity for some part of your life will be as a father. Your job as a man is to be a provider. Now that’s as narrow as the mold that my generation of women broke out of…Men who care, there are circumscribed roles: you can be a coach, you can be a teacher, you can actually be in the military. You’re supposed to care for your men, and a lot of war literature is about that…But when a man says, "I’m the lead parent." When a man says, "I’m investing in my family." When a man says, "I’m going part-time because I really think it’s important for me to devote this time to my children or to my parents," he if anything suffers worse stigma than women. Because when women do that, we’re seen as not committed to our careers. When men do that, they’re seen as not committed to their careers and it’s not so clear they’re really very manly. That just can’t be. You can’t have a halfway revolution.

On “strong, good, competent” men:

The next part of this revolution—and it’s gonna take a lot because we have very deep stereotypes. And when I say "we", women and men, about what a strong, good, competent man looks like. To me, a competent man is somebody who can earn a living, come home, cook dinner, put a child to bed and organize a play date just as well as I can. That’s a competent man. That’s a good man. That’s a man I want to marry. That’s, I would not say, the general view. I think the men who are doing that are as bold and as pioneering as the women who wanted to integrate the workplace in the late 1960s and who were called every name in the book.

On the role of “Lean In”:

This has to be a collective enterprise. I believe in a lot of what’s in “Lean In,” and I’ve given a lot of that advice… But the flaw—it’s not a flaw because it’s a both-and. “Lean In” is about—it’s self-help. It’s about what we can do. And Americans anyway—and there are a number of Americans—we love self-help books. We have an entire bestseller list for self-help books. We have a national religion of self-improvement…This is not something that can be accomplished through self help. These are questions of what kind of society are we going to be? We have to enable our citizens to care for each other, men and women. And to do that in the United States we need paid family leave, we need parental leave, we need affordable daycare and elder care, we need flexible work and our careers that assume there are periods where you’re really invested in your career but other periods when you’re more invested in your family. All of that has to be done collectively as citizens. All of that cannot be done one woman at a time, one CEO at a time, one company at a time. 

Download: (27.4MB)

Speakers: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Rebecca Fradkin