Mother or marathoner?

If you haven’t read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” read it now.

We printed out all 28 pages. The article is long, but it is very thoughtful. No matter if you’re young and just starting a career or a little older with children in college, no matter if you’re male or female, you’ll find Slaughter’s comments interesting.

We particularly liked one section with the subtitle “Revaluing Family Values.”

“While employers shouldn’t privilege parents over other workers, too often they end up doing the opposite, usually subtly, and usually in ways that make it harder for a primary caregiver to get ahead,” Slaughter writes.

“Consider the following proposition,” she says. “An employer has two equally talented and productive employees. One trains for and runs marathons when he is not working. The other takes care of two children.

“What assumptions is the employer likely to make about the marathon runner? That he gets up in the dark every day and logs an hour or two running before even coming into the office, or drives himself to get out there even after a long day. That he is ferociously disciplined and willing to push himself through distraction, exhaustion and days when nothing seems to go right in the service of a goal far in the distance. That he must manage his time exceptionally well to squeeze all of that in.

“Be honest: Do you think the employer makes those same assumptions about the parent? Even though she likely rises in the dark hours before she needs to be at work, organizes her children’s day, makes breakfast, packs lunch, gets them off to school, figures out shopping and other errands even if she is lucky enough to have a housekeeper—and does much the same work at the end of the day.”

Slaughter concludes: “The discipline, organization, and sheer endurance it takes to succeed at top levels with young children at home is easily comparable to running 20 to 40 miles a week. But that’s rarely how employers see things, not only when making allowances, but also when making promotions.”

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