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Women’s Book Club Discusses Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Our very first meeting of Read. Meet. Connect inspired a frank, earnest and engaging conversation on a range of topics raised by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s book, Unfinished Business. Slaughter is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of New America and previously served as Dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  Slaughter was also the first female director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department in 2009, but resigned her dream job two years later in order to spend more time with her family.   In 2012, after facing criticism by many for taking a step backwards in her career, Slaughter wrote an article for The Atlantic, entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” which became the most widely read article ever published by The Atlantic and a lightning rod for reframing the conversation surrounding modern feminism at home and at work.  The article and the discussions that ensued evolved into Unfinished Business.

The women of Read. Meet. Connect discussed two major themes:  (1) the difficulties faced by women (and men) resulting from inconsistent standards placed on men and women at home and at work, and (2) the societal need not only for women to “lean in,” but to address and repair an imperfect system. With respect to the former, we shared stories about how we are and have been perceived and valued in both our family lives and at work. We discussed the sharp dichotomy between societal perceptions of men and women in the context of such tasks as changing diapers and taking on room-parent duties: men are lauded as “hero dads” while women are presumed to fill such roles by virtue of their sex.  Conversely, many men feel pressure to focus on work over family, and can face criticism for adopting a flexible work schedule to accommodate either their spouse’s career or to become a more involved parent. 
                                                                                                                                                                
We had a fascinating conversation surrounding the idea of “social capital,” and how business and career development is still largely rooted in the primarily-male tradition of trading favors (i.e. exchanging “social capital”). Men and women are still often viewed and valued under one lens, when in reality, the system that is built for judging success remains largely male-driven and male-biased. We discussed Slaughter’s proposition that, while women should continue to “lean in,” speak up, and mentor other women to do the same, we, as a society, should work to create a more balanced system for all genders.

While our discussion just touched on the full breadth of subjects that Slaughter writes about in Unfinished Business, the first meeting of Read. Meet. Connect was a fantastic opportunity to initiate an important dialogue of her ideas, and our own experiences.  It prompted, and has continued to ignite, much further discussion and thought about what it means to be a woman, and what changes we should strive for.