Decades ago women broke the mold for their gender by going to the office. Today, it’s men who are breaking the mold by staying home, says Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of the new book Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family.
“Many of us can’t make it without a lead-parent husband,” Slaughter told the crowd at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. But if you have one, she said, “celebrate him,” and “tell younger women that’s how you’re doing it. Be honest.”
Slaughter, president of think tank the New America Foundation and a former Princeton University law professor and dean, ignited a national debate about gender equality at work with her widely read 2012 cover story in the The Atlantic, titled, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” The solution, she says, lies in structural changes in the world of work, and expanding roles for men.
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Slaughter has noted that her own husband, Andy Moravcsik, paved the way for her career success. Himself a successful academic, he “leaned out,” so to speak, from a promising career in order to spend more time with the couple’s two sons. Moravcsik weighed in on the topic with a recent Atlantic article of his own titled, “Why I Put My Wife’s Career First.”
Both articles generated blowback from other feminists as well as staunch traditionalists. And both mentioned the couple’s children. How did Slaughter’s son, now in college, react?
“He is both proud of me and proud of the role that I’ve played,” she said on Wednesday. “But he’s equally proud of the idea that Andy wrote an article saying he was the lead parent.” Her kids are happy, Slaughter says, with “the idea that they are going to be part of expanding roles for men.”
Looking ahead, Slaughter is optimistic about the future of gender equality at work, particularly because more men are taking up the mantle of shared parental responsibility. She cited a study finding that 50% to 60% of MBA men plan to put family ahead of career at some point. And she applauded the idea that millennial men are more likely to spend more time with their kids than previous generations.
But there’s still a long way to go, Slaughter told the audience, and she has three big items on her wish list for policy changes: 1. Paid family leave and increased flexibility to care for a sick spouse, parent, or child 2. Paid maternity and paternity leave and 3. Quality affordable childcare.