Unfinished Business

Women Men Work Family


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September 29, 2015 | ISBN 9780385367912

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About the Book

Includes a new afterword by the author • “Slaughter’s gift for illuminating large issues through everyday human stories is what makes this book so necessary for anyone who wants to be both a leader at work and a fully engaged parent at home.”—Arianna Huffington


When Anne-Marie Slaughter accepted her dream job as the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department in 2009, she was confident she could juggle the demands of her position in Washington, D.C., with the responsibilities of her family life in suburban New Jersey. Her husband and two young sons encouraged her to pursue the job; she had a tremendously supportive boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and she had been moving up on a high-profile career track since law school. But then life intervened. Parenting needs caused her to make a decision to leave the State Department and return to an academic career that gave her more time for her family.

The reactions to her choice to leave Washington because of her kids led her to question the feminist narrative she grew up with. Her subsequent article for The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” created a firestorm, sparked intense national debate, and became one of the most-read pieces in the magazine’s history.

Since that time, Anne-Marie Slaughter has pushed forward, breaking free of her long-standing assumptions about work, life, and family. Though many solutions have been proposed for how women can continue to break the glass ceiling or rise above the “motherhood penalty,” women at the top and the bottom of the income scale are further and further apart.

Now, in her refreshing and forthright voice, Anne-Marie Slaughter returns with her vision for what true equality between men and women really means, and how we can get there. She uncovers the missing piece of the puzzle, presenting a new focus that can reunite the women’s movement and provide a common banner under which both men and women can advance and thrive.

With moving personal stories, individual action plans, and a broad outline for change, Anne-Marie Slaughter reveals a future in which all of us can finally finish the business of equality for women and men, work and family.

“I’m confident that you will be left with Anne-Marie’s hope and optimism that we can change our points of view and policies so that both men and women can fully participate in their families and use their full talents on the job.”—Hillary Rodham Clinton
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Praise for Unfinished Business

“An eye-opening call to action from someone who rethought the whole notion of ‘having it all,’ Unfinished Business could change how many of us approach our most important business: living.”People
“Another clarion call from [Anne-Marie] Slaughter . . . Her case for revaluing and better compensating caregiving is compelling. . . . Slaughter skillfully exposes half-truths in the workplace [and] makes it a point in her book to speak beyond the elite.”—Jill Abramson, The Washington Post
“Slaughter argues that the current punishing route to professional success—or simply to survival—is stalling gender progress. . . . [Her] important contribution is to use her considerable platform to call for cultural change, itself profoundly necessary. The book’s audience, then, shouldn’t just be worried womankind. It should go right into the hands of (still mostly male) decision-makers.”Los Angeles Times
“Slaughter should be applauded for devising a ‘new vocabulary’ to identify a broad, misclassified social phenomenon. And she is razor-sharp on outlining the cultural shifts necessary to give caregiving its due. . . . By putting these issues on the agenda, Slaughter has already taken an essential first step.”The Economist
“A meaningful correction to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In . . . For Slaughter, it is organizations—not women—that need to change.”Slate

“The mother of a manifesto for working women . . . Anecdotes from [Slaughter’s] own life and others are deftly interwoven with research, making Unfinished Business a compelling and lively read.”Financial Times

“Anne-Marie Slaughter insists that we ask ourselves hard questions. After reading Unfinished Business, I’m confident that you will be left with Anne-Marie’s hope and optimism that we can change our points of view and policies so that both men and women can fully participate in their families and use their full talents on the job.”—Hillary Rodham Clinton
“Anne-Marie Slaughter’s gift for illuminating large issues through everyday human stories is what makes this book so necessary for anyone who wants to be both a leader at work and a fully engaged parent at home.”—Arianna Huffington
“With breathtaking honesty Anne-Marie Slaughter tackles the challenges of often conflicted working mothers and working fathers and shows how we can craft the lives we want for our families. Her book will spark a national conversation about what we need to do to live saner, more satisfying lives.”—Katie Couric
Unfinished Business is an important read for women and men alike. Slaughter shows us that when people share equally the responsibility of caring for others, they are healthier, economies prosper, and both women and men are freer to lead the lives they want.”—Melinda Gates
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Unfinished Business

Less Can Be More
During the 2014 Super Bowl, Cadillac ran an ad that was meant to be a celebration of American workaholism. It showed a clean- cut fifty-something white man with blazing blue eyes walking and talking his way through his mansion while extolling the virtues of the American work ethic. “Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café, they take August off. Off. Why aren’t you  like that?  Why  aren’t  we like that?  Because we’re crazy, driven, hardworking believers,” says the guy, who looks like a car- toon version of a one-percenter, to the camera. The moral of the ad: If you just work hard enough, avoiding vacation and “creating your own luck,” anything, including the ownership of a $75,000 car, is possible.
The  ad drove me crazy. The  man was so smug and so com- pletely out of touch with what I consider to be the real values that Americans have traditionally  proclaimed and tried to pass down to their children. Yes, Europeans and others often criticize Amer- ican culture for being materialistic, but when Thomas  Jefferson described humankind’s “unalienable rights” in the Declaration  of Independence, he took English Enlightenment philosopher  John Locke’s “life, liberty, and estate” and substituted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And as the behavioral psychologists tell us, happiness is more likely to be found in the pleasures of human connection  and experience—a good meal, a play or movie or sporting event, a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of champagne— than it is in an endless catalogue of possessions.

I wasn’t alone in my reaction. One reporter wrote, “You know what really needs attention?  What working like crazy and taking no time off really gets us[?]” It gets Americans to the grave earlier, it’s made us more anxious than people in other developed coun- tries, and it’s created  a group  of people more  disengaged from their jobs than in countries with more leisure time.
In the end, it was New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin who made the most damning argument  against the commercial. As we were talking about it, he pointed out that Cadillac was disparaging the vacation-loving Europeans  in an effort to sell luxury cars to a wealthy U.S. audience who prefer German BMWs and Mercedes. Last  I  checked,  German   workers  get  a  mandated   minimum twenty days of vacation every year. 
It’s that simple. German  workers work at least two weeks a year less than American workers do and yet produce better  cars. Perhaps  that is because German  managers still subscribe to the empirical findings that led Henry Ford to establish an eight-hour workday in 1914. When Ford looked at in-house research, he realized that manual laborers were finished after eight hours of work a day. After he cut hours, errors went down, and productiv- ity, employee satisfaction, and company profits went up.

We actually have a growing body of data in support  of the proposition that working less means working better. According to much  more  recent  research,  people  who work principally  with their brains rather than their hands have an even shorter amount of real daily productivity than manual laborers. Microsoft em- ployees, for instance, reported  that they put in only twenty-eight productive hours in a forty-five-hour workweek—a little less than six hours  a day. Futurist  Sara Robinson  found the same thing: knowledge  workers have fewer than  eight hours  a day of hard mental labor in them before they start making mistakes.

This relationship between working better and working less holds particularly true in any job requiring creativity, the well- spring of innovation. Experts on creativity emphasize the value of nonlinear  thinking  and cultivated randomness,  from long walks to looking at your environment in ways you never have before. Making time for play, as well as designated  downtime,  has also been found to boost creativity. Experts suggest we should change the rhythm  of our workdays to include periods in which we are simply letting our minds run wherever they want to go. Without play, we might never be able to make the unexpected connections that are the essence of insight.

About the Author

Anne-Marie Slaughter
Anne-Marie Slaughter is president and CEO of New America. She is the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and the former dean of its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Slaughter director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, the first woman to hold that job. A foreign policy analyst, legal and international relations scholar, and public commentator, Slaughter was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Harvard Law School and is a former president of the American Society of International Law. More by Anne-Marie Slaughter
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