July 19, 2012
DAVID GREGORY INTERVIEWS ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER
MEET THE PRESS “PRESS PASS” TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO
“WHY WOMEN STILL CAN’T HAVE IT ALL” AUTHOR DISCUSSES MARISSA MAYER AND THE CHALLENGES OF BALANCING CAREER AND FAMILY
WEB | HIGH | CART
WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 19, 2012 – In this week’s “Meet the Press” mid-week “PRESS Pass” conversation, David Gregory sat down with Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton professor and former State Department official, to discuss her recent Atlantic magazine cover story titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
Slaughter believes that Yahoo’s decision to tap soon-to-be mother Marissa Mayer as CEO confirms the main thesis of her piece: “I actually think she confirms a lot of what I was saying, because I actually say women who are superhuman, rich and in charge of their own time can do it. It’s just that that’s kind of a very high bar, and I don’t think it makes sense to say to most women ‘Make CEO by 37 and then have kids.’ For most women, they’re having kids before then, they need to take time, we need more flexible arrangements. But I’m all for what she achieved; I just don’t think that applies to the majority of women.”
Slaughter went further in depth discussing her widely read and much talked about article, including struggles of achieving success in both career and family and the solutions she’d like to see take shape.
A full transcript is below and the embeddable video of the complete interview is online here: http://bit.ly/OJGFd8
# # #
PRESS Pass: Anne-Marie Slaughter
Author, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’
Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
DAVID GREGORY: I’m David Gregory and this is PRESS Pass, your all-access pass to an extra Meet The Press conversation. This week, I’m joined by Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor and former State Department official, professor now at Princeton University, where she was once the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. She’s written an article for the Atlantic Magazine about whether women can have it all, a topic that kicked off a national debate earlier this summer and is still getting people talking. She’s here to continue that conversation this morning. It’s very good to have you.
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: It’s a pleasure.
GREGORY: So here we have in the news this week perhaps the best rebuttal to your piece about women can quote-unquote have it all, we can define what that means. But you have at Google, Marissa Mayer, who has now left Google to become the CEO of Yahoo, and here she is, pregnant, after all, getting on a track that, to your mind, is very difficult to achieve successfully.
SLAUGHTER: Well, first thing: I think it’s just terrific, and I applaud her and any woman who makes it to the top I applaud; I want more women at the top. But I actually think she confirms a lot of what I was saying, because I actually say women who are superhuman, rich and in charge of their own time can do it. It’s just that that’s kind of a very high bar, and I don’t think it makes sense to say to most women ‘Make CEO by 37 and then have kids.’ For most women, they’re having kids before then, they need to take time, we need more flexible arrangements. But I’m all for what she achieved; I just don’t think that applies to the majority of women.
GREGORY: And let me ask you something that I know you’ve been asked before, which is to define what it means, the title of the piece ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,’ which having read the piece, I think is an accurate reflection of the major points you’re making in the piece. What is it, what is the ‘it’ in this case as you’ve been asked before, that women still can’t have?
SLAUGHTER: ‘Having it all’ for my generation meant having the same choices about work and family that men did. So that men have always had careers and families, and in the 1970’s, the idea was, ‘You can be a woman, and you can have a career as a lawyer or doctor or whatever you want to be, and you can still have a family, just like a man can.’ And what I’m saying now is: In fact, if you look at the numbers, having a family often means a woman really has to change how she pursues her career; she has to take time in ways that knock her off the leadership track. So that in fact, men still have choices about career and having a family that women don’t. They still don’t have the same quality of choices.
GREGORY: One qualifier here is that we are talking about a pretty narrow strata of people that you are addressing in this piece. I mean this is not a choice for most Americans, for most women who have to work -- they need the money, their family needs the money. You’re talking about highly educated, wealthier, high-achieving women who are making choices about career achievement, as well as balancing the family life.
SLAUGHTER: That’s right. I’m talking about women who come out of the top schools, 50 percent who are coming out of professional schools, who go into professions at 50 percent. And then if you look twenty, thirty years later, you’re looking at numbers like 17 percent, 20 percent at the top. So it’s the group of women whom we should reasonably expect to be able to be CEOs and managing partners and president, someday, and that pool, a large number are actually not ending up in leadership positions.
GREGORY: And if the premise here is that ‘having it all’ means successful parenting and success in your career and career achievement, I mean the reality is society may view this as more difficult for women, and a lot of women view this as more difficult for women as they go through it, but men and women, if they care about those goals equally, are going to face the same struggles, aren’t they?
SLAUGHTER: Well, yes, and I do think, I’ve actually heard from many, many men who say, ‘Look, I’m struggling with this same balance; I want to support my wife -- she has a career, I have a career -- I’m going to have to take situations where I defer a promotion or I say I can’t take that job because it has too much travel.’ So, over time, this is about parents, rather than women. My point was simply: Until now, what’s happening is both parents may feel the stress, but it’s the woman who is then going part-time, or taking a different job, or deferring a promotion, in ways that mean we are not seeing equality at the top.
GREGORY: And why is it that you think we’re still in a circumstance even though -- and Sheryl Sandberg has written a lot about having a good partner, which I hope I am to my wife, since we’re in this situation where we both work at a certain level of demand and care about our three children and really manage both of that. Why do you think it’s still so difficult for women, more than men, to find that balance?
SLAUGHTER: That’s a hard one. My husband’s fabulous, he’s a full-time tenured professor, and he took care of our sons during the week when I was in Washington and I’d commute home on the weekends. So, absolutely, having a fully engaged co-parent as a spouse is essential. But, over time, when you have kids, and particularly if they need you -- and my kids needed us more as teenagers, not very surprisingly -- I think many women feel that tug, that tug of ‘I’m responsible to my children, and I’m also a career professional,’ in ways that mean they are more likely to take time out. Now that may again change, but I think a lot of men feel ‘I’m providing for my family, I might want to take more time, but I can’t; I have to take that promotion,’ even though there’s real cost to the career.
GREGORY: But that does assume that men are incapable -- so women are capable to achieve both, but men are incapable to achieve both. In other words, you still believe that most men are not capable of playing at least 50 percent of the role at home, being focused on the dual goal of career achievement and home achievement. Is that accurate today?
SLAUGHTER: I think in most couples, when it comes down to who is going to defer their career aspirations versus talking care of the kids, it is still -- You could put it a different way: You could say, it is much harder for a man to say ‘I’m not going to be partner, I’m going to take my time,’ and the problem is we’ve got a career track that doesn’t allow you to take time and still make partner. In that context, it’s still ‘Well, the man has his career,’ and the woman has her career too, but they’ve both got a family, and when something has to give, I’m not saying that men can’t do it, I’m just saying, if we look out at the numbers, it’s still mostly women. So I would advocate flexibility for both parents.
GREGORY: In your case, former dean of Woodrow Wilson, as I mentioned, at Princeton, a professor: There are both a lot of women and a lot of men who would not have made the choice that you made, to work at the highest level of the government, particularly in foreign service and all of the hours that that requires, in a city that’s not your own. I mean, that’s true, right? So that exacerbated your struggles.
SLAUGHTER: Yes. Although here is exactly part of the disparity. Frequently, not always, but very frequently, when the man goes to Washington, his wife comes too, and moves the kids. I do not know a single woman who is commuting to Washington where the husband moved, and moved the kids. I knew a number of women who said, as I did, ‘My kids are rooted in school, they’re rooted in a community, and honestly if we move they’re gonna uproot them, my husband’s career is gonna be uprooted, better for them to stay at home and for me to commute.’ So I was doing the same thing that countless men have done; it’s just that generally when men have done it, their wives have moved their families.
GREGORY: So what are some of the solutions that you’d like to see? How do we tackle this?
SLAUGHTER: Well, I mean, there’s two sets of solutions. First, just in terms of the workplace, as I pointed out, flexibility goes a long way. I mean, as a dean, I had an incredibly big job, but I could control my own time, and that’s the first thing most women say is, ‘give me control, give me some more flexibility, I can do it.’
GREGORY: But in your job at the State Department, that wouldn’t work, would it?
SLAUGHTER: Absolutely right. So, that’s the second thing, because there are, particularly in this town, there are jobs where, as I say, Secretary Clinton can’t say to the Egyptian government, ‘hold the revolution’ --
GREGORY: Right, right.
SLAUGHTER: -- ‘My staff needs flexibility.’ So, absolutely. But in that case, then we need to redefine the arc of a successful career. Because we’ve still got the assumption like in the 1950s: You know, you go into the workforce in your 20s, you work straight for 30 years and you climb the ladder as fast as you possibly can. I’m suggesting if you’ve got two people working who also have kids, that’s a 20 year chunk with kids, you need to be able to let people plateau, they need to sort of get up to a certain point, take plateau, move laterally for a while, and then when their kids are out of the house, then they can take the big jobs.
GREGORY: But there’s still, it seems to me, some, I would say a fair amount of debate among the women I talk to, starting with my wife, about what it means to have it all. And of course your definition will be different perhaps from my wife’s, perhaps than another friend or colleague, especially women who make a decision to stay at home full time with their kids --
SLAUGHTER: That’s true.
GREGORY: Who may feel that they’re having it all as well. So are we a little caught up in some of the old definitions of what it means to have it all?
SLAUGHTER: So I would go back to where I started. This is, it ought to be equal for men and women. So there are men who really want to make it to the top and think that’s having it all, and having a family. There are men who say, ‘no, I want a lower-pressure job because I want more time with my family,’ and there are some men who want to stay home. I just want women to be able to have the same range of choices. And I have heard from hundreds of women who say, ‘I came out of school, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, I had all these ambitions, and fifteen years later I’m working part-time because I’ve got my kids and I really want to be with them, and I don’t have those career options still open to me.’ So it’s at any level of ambition.
GREGORY: And it is true, I again, I think we see it more often with women, but of course men and women would both face the same challenges as they said, ‘Well I wanted some flexibility, you know, when I was 35 to 40, then I’d like to get back into it.’
SLAUGHTER: Exactly, exactly.
GREGORY: There’s a lot of careers, again, because of what we’re talking about which is this slice of America, of high-achieving people, wealthier people who want to both work at a high level and parent at a high level, that you can sort of get off that track and find it difficult to get in, or take yourself out of it.
GREGORY: But, now, I know that one of the things my wife believes, as she talks to young people, and talks to young women, which is: If you really want flexibility, then get power and influence.
SLAUGHTER: Well, and that’s why I said, I mean, for Marissa Mayer, if you can make it to the top by 37 -- or I got tenure by 35 and then I was able to control my own time -- that’s great. But the other thing is the biology here, where I’m also saying to young women: If you wait ‘til after 35 to have kids, your risk of infertility goes way up. That is not fun. I went through it and it was very, very difficult. So something sort of has to give, ‘cause 30 to 35 is also when you should also be aiming for that first real, you know, power rank in your career -- if you’re also trying to have kids, somewhere we need to put some more play in the system.
GREGORY: One thing that I have not mentioned, that I do think is important, because we’re talking about this in the context of parenting. There’s a lot of single women who work professionally at a high level, who go through a lot of stresses and sexism and questions about why they’re not married and why they’re not child-rearing, etcetera. That’s a real struggle as well.
SLAUGHTER: No it is. And I mean, first of all, if you don’t have kids, you know, you are going to probably achieve, get higher faster, and that’s fine, because that’s what you committed to do. Also a lot of single women, who’ve written me and say ‘I end up picking up the slack for the parents in my workplace and that never gets recognized. And I want a life, too, right, it’s not just about kids, I want to be able to do other things.’ So I don’t think there’s sort of one path, and I think if you don’t have kids you can totally engage in your career, men or women. But for 80 percent of women who are mothers, I still think -- If our goal, and this is where Sheryl Sandberg and I are completely aligned, if our goal is to see equal representation at the top, as well as coming out of school and going in, then we really have to focus on the real barriers that are leading so many women, and some men, but many more women, to step out.
GREGORY: And final point here is about the role of men in this, because I do think it’s important for men at high levels in the workplace to be leading this conversation --
GREGORY: To be honest about the conversation, and saying ‘You know, there are some limits to what I want to do,’ or ‘I have some limits because of my wife’s schedule that we have to balance.’ That conversation is, I guess, in your experience, still not happening a great deal -- being led by men.
SLAUGHTER: Well, it’s happening in the younger generation; it’s very interesting. And it’s sort of age 25 to 30, that generation sees this as absolutely not a women’s issue, but as a social issue, as a parenting issue. And I’ve heard from lots of fathers who say, you know, ‘I watched my daughter go through school, I watched her come out and enter her profession, and then she didn’t have good choices and I, too, want to be part of really changing this.’ So I do think men are essential; this is a human issue. It’s about investing in our children, which is a pretty profound social issue.
GREGORY: And a pretty highly charged issue, which is why how many people have read this now online?
SLAUGHTER: 1.4 million people, and it’s been out less than a month.
GREGORY: Around the globe.
SLAUGHTER: Yeah, around the globe, from Vietnam to Australia to Israel to Brazil.
GREGORY: Well, the conversation will continue. Good to see you, thank you very much, appreciate it.
SLAUGHTER: Thank you. Thanks.
# # #