Former Dean of the Wilson School Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 discussed the focus of the second half of the women’s revolution in a lecture Tuesday, saying that American society should place a higher value on caregiving.
“We focus more on ourselves and are missing the value of investing in others,” she said. “Families need to have parents, and as a society, we need to value care for those we love.”
Slaughter is the President and CEO of New America, a think tank focused on public policy issues based in Washington, D.C. She was the Dean of the Wilson School from 2002 to 2009 and is currently a professor emerita of politics and international affairs.
Her 2012 article in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” became one of the most widely read pieces published by the magazine.
Citing her new book, “Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family,” which was published in September, Slaughter explained that investing in the next generation is essential to Americans’ survival as a race and a nation. Unfortunately, she added, as a nation we don’t value caregiving.
“We expect women to work, but we don’t have paid leave,” she said.
Additionally, Slaughter said that the issue of caregiving is as much an issue to women as it is to men. She noted that many men wrote to her saying that they would like to spend time with their children, but cannot do so because they are expected to be the breadwinners.
“We are not giving men the same range of choices as women,” she said. “We need to let men speak for what they want.”
She highlighted her own career and family situation, focusing on her ability to balance work and family life. However, she said she realized that what she had been telling women was not accurate, and that her situation had only worked because she had money, a supportive husband and a flexible career.
In her book, she said, she modified her stance, saying that in order to achieve full gender equality, we need to focus on changes in the workplace. Men have to be valued for taking paternity leave, and women who work in traditional roles such as teachers and nurses also have to be valued.
“This kind of work is as hard and valuable as traditionally powerful jobs,” Slaughter said. “We need to liberate men and women from traditional gender roles.”
Slaughter also noted that she thinks her outlook on society stems from her time at the University, saying that she realized in hindsight that society at the time was very encouraging to feminists. She noted that she had the great fortune to be born when opportunities historically open to men became open to women, and that for women to excel it would be a question of wanting one’s career enough.
Slaughter said she is optimistic about attaining full gender equality, and added that during her lifetime, she experienced many unprecedented events. She noted that back in the 1970s, it was the norm for students to smoke, and a decade prior, it was illegal for a white person to marry an African-American person.
“We are witnessing the next wave of the civil rights movement,” she said. “By helping women advance, liberating men and caring for others, we can support a full range of human endeavor.”
Slaughter graduated from the University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree from the Wilson School and a certificate in European studies. She obtained her master’s degree in international affairs from Oxford University in 1982, her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1985 and her doctorate in international relations from Oxford in 1992.