Ever since last summer, when The Atlantic published her cover story “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter has heard her ideas debated by everyone from policymakers to sitcom characters. She’s also had a chance to think more deeply about what “having it all” really means, and what needs to happen next.
At the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday, Slaughter spoke with former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers about why women keep falling behind. After her article sparked a national conversation, Slaughter realized that the problem was much broader than she’d realized. “Now we understand that women can compete,” she said. “But really, we equally need to understand that men can care.” That change, she said, will have to be “on the order of what we’ve seen around gay marriage, on the order of what we’ve seen around smoking.”
It will also take time, she said, to change the notion that men and women should focus single-mindedly on their careers until the age of 55 and then ease into retirement. With life spans climbing into the mid-80s, Slaughter pointed out, “that leaves 30 years—30 years of what? You’re going to knit?”
As a parting thought, she urged her audience to think more broadly about what success for “women” actually means. “Every time you read the word ‘women’—in The New York Times or wherever—just substitute in your minds ‘the majority of the population,’” she said. “Just that little change.”