ILNews

Lucas: In 2012, can women in the law really have it all?

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

EidtPerspLucas-sigThe ranks of high-powered women who have fought the notion that it is impossible to have both a demanding career and a happy family seem to have lost a warrior.

International lawyer and Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2011, caught many off guard with her article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” The article – the cover story in the July/August issue of The Atlantic magazine – has people talking.

It is not the work itself or even the amount of if that seems to get in the way, according to Slaughter, it is the way America’s economy and society are structured. She blames what she calls the culture of “time macho” that rewards those who work longer and harder than anyone else. And she says that the problem is especially acute in law firms where there is a “cult of billable hours” and office face time that provide the wrong incentive for those who hope to integrate work and family. “Having control over your schedule,” she said, “is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”

Slaughter came to this realization while working in her “foreign policy dream job” in Washington, D.C. Because her husband and two sons lived in Princeton, N.J., she had to live away from them during the week and commute home on weekends. The stress on the family was too much. She decided that when her two-year commitment was over, she would change her original plan to stay in Washington as long as her party was in power, and she would return to Princeton.

It was the reaction to her decision that motivated her to write. There were those who expressed pity that she had to leave her dream job, and others, somewhat to her surprise, were condescending, proclaiming there is no need to compromise. Suddenly, she said, the penny dropped.

“All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

She said that the minute she found herself in a job structure typical for many women in this country – working long hours on someone else’s schedule – she could no longer be both the parent and professional she wanted to be.

Slaughter cites the Supreme Court of the United States as an example. She points out that every male Supreme Court justice has a family; two of the three women on the court are single without children.

Just to be clear, she is not saying this is an all-or-nothing proposition. Slaughter remains a full-time career woman who teaches a full course load, writes regularly on foreign policy, gives 40 to 50 speeches per year, and does regular media appearances.

She says women of her generation “have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation.” But members of the younger generation have stopped listening, she adds, feeling that their predecessors “airbrushed reality” when they talk about having it all.

So here I sit, wondering what it is really like to be a woman – or a man, for that matter – trying to balance the demands of work and family in today’s law firms. Let me know if you believe it is possible to work long hours but still have a balanced family life. If your law firm or business is doing something innovative to support families, I’d like to hear about that, too! Email your thoughts to klucas@ibj.com.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

ADVERTISEMENT