The struggle to get more women into CEO jobs and boardrooms can seem like a puzzle where the pieces don’t quite fit together.  Juggling pressured work and young children can seem like squeezing a square peg into a round hole.  The sides grind against each making everyone wonder if there’s a better way.  This is exactly what Anne-Marie Slaughter has now come to appreciate in her new book ‘Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family’.  The book revises the approach she took in her highly popular 2012 Atlantic article ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ to make some really salient points about womanhood. She comments of her title that:

The reason behind “unfinished business” is that describes most working caregivers’ lives, certainly working mothers. If you talk to a woman between 30 and 50 who is taking care of kids and holding down a job, she will say, “My entire life is unfinished business. I never get to finish anything. I never feel like I’m ever doing anything all the way.”

The real rub is why people don’t appreciate motherhood and raising children as an admirable job in itself.  Why do some so-called feminists seem to think that being in a boardroom in a sharply cut suit is so much more useful and worthy? 

To give some background, Slaughter left her high-powered government job working for Hillary Clinton to return to academia because it worked better with motherhood.  She was offended that her choice was met with disappointment among her feminist peers climbing their way up and hopeful of ‘breaking glass ceilings’.  Slaughter comments that she was widely described as “dropping out” and “in effect, painted as someone who just couldn’t cut it or couldn’t manage the juggle of work and family” when she was in fact still doing an array of flexible work as well as bringing up her children. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, Slaughter comments of her new book: 

This book is very different from the article. I couldn’t have written this book three years ago, because I didn’t believe then what I now write about. What I’m really now talking about is the work that we do investing in other people—as mothers, as fathers, as children taking care of our own parents, as someone taking care of anybody who is disabled or ill.  That work of investing in others is actually just as important as the work we do for money. I now look at my mother’s work as a homemaker as well as her work as an artist, and I say, “Those things are equal.” I didn’t believe that three years ago.

… I started thinking my way through the women’s movement and how we had come to define equality—that women are equal to men only as long as they are doing the work that men have traditionally done.  That’s not a full gender revolution. That’s saying, “Men were the ones who earned the income, and now women can be men.” When women do that, they’re equal; but women who are caring for others are still very much devalued. If you’re really going to have equality, you’ve got to value both kinds of work. 

…We should get rid of “stay-at-home mom” and “stay-at-home dad.” I find that to be very offensive. It says that the place you’re supposed to be is the workplace. If you’re at home, you need an adjective.

In its review The Guardian aptly comments of her new book:

She marshals an impressive array of evidence for the importance of caring work, belying the easy line that it is undervalued because no particular qualifications or skills are needed. Effective early-years teaching requires discipline, multitasking, patience, attention to detail and the ability to entertain and inspire. The problem is that its outcomes are hard to measure, particularly in immediate monetary terms, and our capitalist system finds it hard to assess other types of value.

What Slaughter has come up with isn’t exactly new.  However, it is nice to see more and more women coming to appreciate the real value of women working as mothers, as well as in the other roles in the workforce they may or may not take on.  The first step to true feminism is appreciating the unique roles women play in society; not making them be men and doing CEO counts.  One of these unique roles is their caregiving abilities; their special awareness and sensitivity for human beings in all circumstances. The world would be a much poorer place without the fostering and appreciation of true femininity and its contribution to so many areas of society.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...