The Must-Read I Should’ve, But Didn’t, See Coming
The cover story in this month’s Atlantic magazine is an article by former U.S. State Department head of policy planning, former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public & International Affairs, former Harvard Law professor Anne-Marie Slaughter. Anne-Marie’s writings on international institutions and international networks are, I’m sure, known to many OJ readers. For this reason alone, I count the piece as fair fodder for our international law and policy blog.
The article, however, is not about international law or policy. Not per se. It is, I suppose, about some of the key jobs in the U.S. international security and foreign policy establishment. It is about her experience, to some extent, of her State Department job. But mostly, it’s about women in these, and other substantive, high-level, professional positions. And whether, and to what extent, it’s possible for women in such positions to “have it all” – that is, a fulfilling career and rich, involved family life. Her conclusion: Outside of academia, not so much.
The significance of the piece is not especially its insights about the difficulty of having both professional career and family life. There are other pieces about the dearth of women in leadership roles in the national security establishment (and at the most senior levels in a host of other professions). There are other pieces about the absurd way in which public school schedules still function as if it hadn’t been more than a decade since our society became one in which the majority of married couples with children have both parents working outside the home. There are other pieces recommending more flexible work places. There are many other pieces about the costs vs. benefits of motherhood earlier vs. later in life. One could go on.
The significance of this piece is its author. There’s a personal cost to writing from one’s personal experience. There’s a risk in engaging the personal as political. Anne-Marie Slaughter didn’t need to write a piece like this. But I’m grateful that she did.