Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why Women Still Can't Have It All - The Atlantic

So this piece has gotten a whole lot of attention lately and so I'm wanting to provide my own reflection.  Specifically, this personal account merits a deeper analysis here in order to see how this woman's account in government reflects professional management systems that even Hillary Clinton's office plays out as a microcosm of a larger macrocosm that is a product of historical trends in management. 

Today, as represented here in this article, this involves a disciplining of the individual and population in the interest of economy, productivity, and efficiency. All the complaints in the 1980s against "bloated government bureaucracies" brought in this neo-Taylorist, entrepreneurial discourse and its set of practices that are intended to contain costs, enhance performance in the provision of services to the public sector, and generate public support. 

In the interest of careers and social mobility, I would argue that these socially mobile women were either colonized by patriarchy and bought in to the myth and the privileges that go with it that this patriarchal vision for family and society was the way to go or they sold out their fellow feminists that were struggling for equitable salaries and humane, family-friendly working conditions. 

So the larger issue, in my mind here—affecting all of us—are the hidden costs of drawing on private-sector models of entrepreneurial management to improve public-sector performance. 

Significantly, and ironically, the significant costs here are not only to the individuals concerned but also the organization in terms of the kinds of innovation that gets stifled. Innovation gets "managed," rather than set loose to the creative impulses and talent within the organization. 

As numerous and multiple analyses of our high-stakes accountability systems in education reveal, a preponderance of evidence exists on the side of the equation which shows that these systems of management in the public sector do not work—except, of course, for the either the patriarchs or for the women that have adopted patriarchal ways of knowing and being in the world. A colleague, Brendan Maxcy, and I have actually written about this with respect to education.*

Scholars like Rhodes (1994)** argue that these “fashionable” new professional management (NPM)-style reforms actually are "working," but their working to hollow out the public sector inasmuch as they are related to an overall scaling back in the scope and nature of public sector work in this "managerial society of ours." This is a society where professional work is either more heavily managed or contracted out to private firms.

No person can have it all under this kind of system top-down, stifling, neo-Tayloristic kind of system.


*Valenzuela, A. & Maxcy, B. (2011).  Limited English proficient youth and accountability:  All children (who are tested) count.  In Leal, D. & Meier, K. J. (eds.), The Politics of Latino Education.  New York:  Teachers College Press. 
** Rhodes, R. A.W. (1994). The hollowing out of the state: The changing nature of the public service in Britain. Political Quarterly, 65(2), 138-151.

Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change.

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
Phillip Toledano

Eighteen months into my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.
A debate on career and family See full coverage
As the evening wore on, I ran into a colleague who held a senior position in the White House. She has two sons exactly my sons’ ages, but she had chosen to move them from California to D.C. when she got her job, which meant her husband commuted back to California regularly. I told her how difficult I was finding it to be away from my son when he clearly needed me. Then I said, “When this is over, I’m going to write an op-ed titled ‘Women Can’t Have It All.’” She was horrified. “You can’t write that,” she said. “You, of all people.” What she meant was that such a statement, coming from a high-profile career woman—a role model—would be a terrible signal to younger generations of women. By the end of the evening, she had talked me out of it, but for the remainder of my stint in Washington, I was increasingly aware that the feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet. I had always assumed that if I could get a foreign-policy job in the State Department or the White House while my party was in power, I would stay the course as long as I had the opportunity to do work I loved. But in January 2011, when my two-year public-service leave from Princeton University was up, I hurried home as fast as I could.

Continue reading here.

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