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Work-Life Balance

Anne-Marie Slaughter1.jpgToday at 4:00pm in Cook Auditorium, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton (and formerly the first woman Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department and Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs), will speak on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All: Getting to a Place of Equal Opportunity.” Having read Slaughter’s thoughtful and honest (and in some ways politically incorrect) Atlantic Monthly piece, whose title is the same as her talk, it is safe to say that men can get a lot out of what she has to say, too.

Starting a little more than 200 years ago, people in industrialized countries began an experiment wherein the majority of men and increasingly women, too, began to work away from their homes — the first time in history in which many people faced an ongoing, stark separation between the world of work and their home life. As regards material productivity, the results for the world have been exceptionally positive. As for social relations, things have been less good.

I’ve worked at home (wherever I am at the time) for 25 years. One of my proudest accomplishments is that I can have dinner almost every evening with my family. Another source of pride (and pleasure) is that I eat lunch each day with my wife. For undergraduates contemplating their own careers and how to live life, you might think how you can organize yourself to work from home.

Go hear Slaughter’s talk.

Addendum: Slaughter’s definition of career success seems limited to high-level jobs in the academy, government, law, finance and major corporations. She seems oblivious to the huge role of small business in the economy — an area where women are making enormous progress today. If you own your own business, there is no need to look to your boss or the legislature for workplace reform; you can effect it yourself.

Addendum: While we are on the subject of living, Susan Patton’s letter in the Princetonian recommending that female students work hard to find a spouse while they are undergrads (she says, in effect, they’ll never be in such a target-rich environment again — pace Tom Cruise) is the center of controversy. The WSJ summarizes the debate.

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