Of course, this isn't a tragedy. Affluent, educated women at least have the luxury of choice -- and when I have to choose between an evening think-tank reception and reading bedtime stories to my children, it's no contest: The bedtime stories almost always win. I like being with my children a lot more than I like going to cocktail parties. And though I sometimes (OK, often) miss the adrenaline rush of being involved in the crisis du jour, I know I'd feel even worse if I thought I was missing my daughters' childhoods. Children don't stay children forever, but I'm pretty sure that there will still be plenty of foreign-policy crises left when my kids have gone off to college.
This is perhaps my only slight disagreement with Slaughter. Unlike Slaughter, I think women can "have it all" -- they just can't have it all at the same time. Neither can men.
It's just not possible to work effectively from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day and travel to war zones and hobnob with bigwigs at receptions and conferences and be available at a moment's notice for an urgent call or meeting and write op-eds and policy papers and run the Girl Scout troop and make a home-cooked meal every night and keep an eye on the kids' math homework and sustain vital family relationships and make sure the bills get paid and the car gets fixed, all in the same week, or month, or year. No woman can do that -- and no man can do it either. It's too much.
The problem, then, is not that men can "have it all" but women can't. The problem is that we still live in a world in which social pressures tend to push men and women onto different tracks, and the nature of the workplace reinforces the impact of those social pressures, instead of counterbalancing them.
We still live in a world in which women rather than men are expected to be the primary caregivers for children, and women who are perceived as placing career over family can expect to encounter social disapproval from neighbors, their children's teachers, and even family members. Sometimes it's open, and sometimes it's subtle, but we all know it's there. (Men, of course, are caught in a different but equally painful trap: If they appear to prioritize family over career, they too are apt to be regarded with some suspicion. Just as women whose high-powered jobs take them away from family may be regarded as "unwomanly," men whose families take them away from high-powered jobs may be stigmatized as "unmanly.")
Against that backdrop, workplace cultures that prize ubiquity will disproportionally push women out. And this, as Slaughter argues, has consequences that go well beyond the personal.
On the most basic level, workplaces that drive women out when they have kids lose a lot of talented people. More insidious, if the foreign-policy workplace is mostly male, is that the policymaking process will prioritize the issues that men tend to consider important, while the issues and perspectives traditionally important to women will get short shrift. (No, I'm not wading into the "essentialist versus constructivist" debate here -- this is a comment on what the world looks like right now, not on what it must inevitably look like). Globally, there's ample empirical evidence that gender equality is strongly correlated with societal stability and economic development, but instead of setting a positive example, the United States ranks abysmally low in terms of the percentage of women in leadership positions.
It doesn't have to be this way, and it shouldn't be this way.
The workplace policies and structures that push out women also push out many talented men -- and render those women and men who stay less creative and less capable. There's a growing body of research suggesting that long hours are just plain bad for business, whether "business" means the production of better widgets or the production of wiser foreign policy. The human body and brain can only take so much before productivity, judgment, and decision-making skills begin to suffer. We don't want sleep-deprived pilots to fly planes -- why would we want exhausted, overstretched officials making vital foreign-policy decisions?
The long hours and pervasive crisis atmosphere that characterize most foreign-policy workplaces aren't signs that Very Important Work is being done by Very Important People -- they're just signs of poor management. Good managers, whether they supervise air-traffic controllers, auto workers, or the National Security Staff, recognize that human beings function best when they work in humane and flexible conditions. Good managers make sure their employees -- both female and male -- have the time and encouragement to eat, sleep, exercise, take care of basic life- maintenance tasks, and spend time with family and friends.
It's far from impossible to do this, even in the foreign-policy workplace. At the Pentagon, for instance, Michèle Flournoy, then defense undersecretary for policy, actively encouraged her staff to adopt flexible work schedules. Secure videoconferencing reduces the need for travel, and emerging technologies increasingly permit people who must work with classified information to do so remotely via smartphones and tablets, reducing the need for people to spend long hours at the office.
"What's good for business is good for America," President Calvin Coolidge is said to have remarked. That may or may not be true. But Anne-Marie Slaughter deserves a lot of praise for reminding us that when it comes to the workplace, what's good for women is good for business -- and good for American foreign policy.