Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family after publishing her article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. When Anne-Marie was approached by Secretary Clinton to be the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department it was as she described “a foreign policy dream job”. However, after two years working away from her family, Anne-Marie really began to question women, work and family and whether “having it all” was possible. After posting the “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” article on The Atlantic Anne-Marie was inundated with comments, which led her to write Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family.
Women had often asked Anne-Marie “How do you balance work and family?” Often, she didn’t respond with the whole truth because it was complicated. However, she outlines three mantras that she believes people are following, which are only a half-truth answer.
“You can have it all if you are just committed enough to your career”
“You can have it all if you marry the right person”
“You can have it all if you sequence it right”
Unfinished Business isn’t the first book on women in the workplace and Anne-Marie highlights the popular choice in the genre “Lean In”. She states that “For young women, what is most attractive about the “lean in” message is that it tells them that the fate of their careers and families is within their control… The problem, though, is that it’s often just not true”. Anne-Marie makes that comments because she believes that a woman doesn’t have power over everything. Whilst we would like to think we can control everything, in actual fact many things are outside of our control.
When it comes to the discussion around women in the workplace the topic of work life balance often pops up and Unfinished Business is no exception. Although Anne-Marie admits to using the words “juggling” and “balance” she prefers “the idea of striving toward a good “work/life” fit.” This is about finding a job that fits the life you want to lead and ultimately as life is unpredictable a job needs to be flexible.
Unfinished Business explores the idea of “care and competition” and how has a society we don’t value the role of care enough. This is shown through payment and status. An interesting perspective Anne-Marie brings to the debate is that care isn’t just about looking after children, but with an ageing population, the likelihood is increasingly more people will need to look after their parents.
Anne-Marie believes that to succeed you need to approach your career in phases and “don’t drop out. Defer”. This theory is based on planning “for leaning back and as well as leaning in”. Now obviously, you can’t control anything, but if you really want to have a career and family then at least imagine how you will fit the two alongside each other from the beginning is key.
Overall, I really enjoyed Unfinished Business. I love Anne-Marie’s frank take on the realities women face being carers and workers, as well as conversations about men and the role they plan. The world of work isn’t really ready for those who are carers and workers, which is why we see so many Mothers leaving work to set up their own business.
I read Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family as part of PropelHer’s Book Club for Ambitious Women. Want to join a community of ambitious women who read excellent books to support personal development and professional success? Come join PropelHer’s Book Club.
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