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Anne-Marie Slaughter talks Care Feminism and Portfolio Careers

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” published in the Atlantic Magazine in 2012, ignited a national conversation about women and the workplace. The former director of planning at the U.S. State Department and current CEO of New America sits down with Women on the Move host Sam Saperstein to discuss why this article continues to resonate with women, her career, and a new type of feminism.

The article heard around the world

Anne-Marie had just left her glass ceiling–busting job in Clinton’s State Department when she wrote her Atlantic Magazine article. She recalls how the article “catapulted me into this different world, this domestic world, mostly talking about gender equality.” It was her time at the State Department, she says, that prompted the realization that “having it all” wasn’t the solution or the end game. As she wrote in the article, “I finally allowed myself to accept what was really most important to me. And that decision led to a reassessment of the feminist narrative that I grew up with and have always championed.”

“Real equality doesn't mean remaking myself as a man,” Anne-Marie tells Sam. “It means having the same opportunities that men have had, but also being able to be who I am.” She says that while working in D.C. during the week and commuting home to her family with two teenage sons on the weekend, she realized that while she took pride in her work, she didn’t want to look back later and feel she missed out on critical time with her family. Recognizing how hard it was to make space in her life for both her career and her family prompted her to re-think the ideas of feminism she had grown up with. Now that she was a leader in the system, her next goal was to “reshape the system to adapt to me, not to shape myself to the system.”

Care feminism

Anne-Marie tells Sam that her ideas of feminism evolved over her time as a professional leader and family caretaker. “When I wrote my Atlantic article, I was focused on the ways in which workplaces and norms needed to adapt, to allow women to have the same careers as men,” she says. “So I was solidly a career feminist and just saying, it's just much harder than I recognized, and I've been wrong not to see it from the perspective of women.” 

She soon began focusing on what she calls deeper forces of care and career. “And I'd concluded that you couldn't value men's traditional work and expect women to do it without equally valuing women's traditional work and expecting men to do it—just mathematically, it won't work,” she says.

Care feminism is infused into New America, particularly in the organization’s initiative, Better Life Lab. The Lab, sponsored in part by JP Morgan Chase, focuses on original research and reporting aimed at reimagining work, gender equity, and work-family justice for families of all types.

Portfolio careers

The lifelong arc of women’s—and men’s—careers is another piece of the work-life balance that Anne-Marie is reimagining. “I think about this increasingly in terms of what I call a portfolio career, that most of us need a job, and we do other things on top of it, but there's a kind of central job,” she tells Sam. Throughout people’s careers, she says, there may be times when they want or need to step back or slow down—but that doesn’t mean they have to take a break from their career. Anne-Marie believes rather than balancing everything at once, “it’s really possible to think about all the different things you want to do and construct a portfolio of activity that is your life.” 



Anne-Marie Slaughter talks Care Feminism and Portfolio Careers
Anne-Marie Slaughter, 
CEO, New America