I recently came across an article with an interesting title: Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. In between school runs, consultancy work and my transition to a changing self, I have not been able to read it. So it sat as an open tab amongst my 20 other tabs on pages ranging from Mandela’s first T.V. Interview to findings about art in places of healing.
It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. If we truly believe in equal opportunity for all women, here’s what has to change. – Anne – Marie Slaughter
Two years ago during Pivot25 I stood up, grabbed a mic (rather emotionally) and challenged the wonderful women on stage, who were then advising us as women who had been successful in the tech industry. My challenge to them was simple. Because tech was a new and growing field in Kenya then, these women had the chance to make it work for more women – in particular the women behind them. They no longer had to question why the tech industry did not retain the large number of women who entered the industry and then dropped off later.
I am not talking about affirmative action here. My suggestions were simply that they consider building companies that allowed for flexi-time, companies that had crèches built into them and companies that valued the idea of family and supporting the woman in caring for the family.
Needless to say the response was abit harsh and justifiably because these women had scaled walls that belonged to men and boys (in school) who did well in the sciences.
The question being; why stop and take a step back?
As I said then and still say today, it is a step forward. I believe once structures are in place for women to hold multiple roles, then it will be possible for women who have to juggle these roles to compete as they are very capable of doing.
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).
Feminism must not die. But it must fit our changing roles in society and the ways to which women’s needs can best be met. Otherwise we feminists will end up fighting the very thing that has made it possible for us to choose any career path we want, from politics to medicine. Feminism has done a lot to ensure that my place in this urban city will not be challenged because of my gender.
That beautifully written article is a long read (admittedly I am still reading it between children, work and home), however I think it speaks about what we need to do to make it possible to still be competitive while not undermining the very important role we play as mothers and homemakers.
I have been lucky to manage myself as a consultant. My skill set means I consistently have something to offer various markets, which means I can contribute to the household, monetarily and balance family life. Being a consultant has also allowed me to schedule my work around my children. This is a real blessing because I can see and guide them in their growth.
The author, Anne – Marie Slaughter, talks about the problem being an American problem. I think it is an urban problem and I think it a problem that many women who benefit from feminism will invariable face.