Published by Random House Publishing Group on September 29th 2015
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In 2012, fresh from leaving her high-ranking position with the State Department in order to have more time with her family, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote Why Women Still Can’t Have It All for The Atlantic. The article soon went viral, earning its fair share of praise and criticism. The comments and e-mails Slaughter received in the wake of the article’s publication began to reshape her view and led her to Unfinished Business.
A major criticism of Slaughter’s Atlantic article was her problematic focus on women too much like herself. There were points in Unfinished Business when I wanted more from her renewed efforts to include single mothers and women working low income jobs in the discussion, but there was improvement. Her comments on America’s relationship with work apply across the board and get to the heart of what so many struggle with.
“We must rework our society so the expense and headache of childcare and eldercare don’t sink women and their families, and we need to remodel our workplaces so that our employers no longer assume that a lawyer or businessperson can be available 24/7 to answer email or that a restaurant worker or clerk can be available 24/7 to staff a shift.”
Still, I found myself pushing back when Slaughter mentioned the need for caregivers to have greater flexibility at work. While I know parenting is extremely difficult, I also know how frustrating it can be to have your need for personal time ignored when you don’t have children. Thankfully, she went on to discuss how caregiving covers a wide spectrum that includes eldercare and self-care, making a great point about flexibility leading to increased productivity.
“A second strand is the assumption that people who do not have family members to go home to have no reason to want to go home. Even viewed purely from the performance standpoint as competitors, they will perform far better if they rest and recharge. Care also has many faces. Caring for members of your community—your church, temple, mosque, YMCA, local food bank, Little League, Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization, and so many more—occupies a different but no less important part of the care spectrum as family responsibilities.”
Unfinished Business also spends a great deal of time discussing society’s devaluing of care and its negative impact. I would have liked the topic to get a bit more broad, as it touched on some interesting territory before circling back to the traditional two-parent family, but many of her points were extremely valid. As is the case with the book as a whole: though there’s more to be explored, Anne-Marie Slaughter offers a compelling contrast to “leaning in”—changing work so it benefits us all.