There’s another reason that Anne Marie Slaughter (in her essay in the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”) is right to argue that expectations around work and family must change to support women:
Women’s financial lives are at stake.
As you know (sorry to repeat the headlines), women still earn less, save less, and retire (on average) with about a third less than men. A third.
And yet, women are still expected (or expect themselves) to take time out from their careers to raise kids or help out with aging/ill relatives.
Nearly 40% of women take off more than two years (and many women take off more than that). A full two-thirds of family caregivers are women.
But women aren’t guided merely by a desire to be there for their families. Slaughter notes that many women have little choice. The structure of the professional world is often incompatible with (if not hostile to) the flexibility a woman needs to contribute to her family.
Yes, this is true for men, as well. But it’s women who end up with less in the bank.
Slaughter’s essay ends with a striking, game-changing list of solutions—which includes redefining the trajectory of a “successful” career from a straight line to one with bumps and curves (hah) that allows for downshifting as well as gearing back up.
We’d add this: “Having it all” isn’t just about getting more moms in the C-suite. It’s about adjusting expectations around work and family so that women, all women, have the ability to build financially and personally rich lives, without immense sacrifice on either end.