Janet

Gloria Feldt: No Excuses

N.Y. Times writer Adriana Gardella recently interviewed Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change the Way We Think About Power and Leadership. Here's a snippet from the interview:

Q. How do women who flee the work force have an impact on those who do not?

Ms. Feldt: They make it harder for the rest of us to remedy the inequities that remain. We have to make young women aware of how their choices affect other women. It should be acceptable criticism to point out that, although everyone has the right to make their own life decisions, choosing to “opt out” reinforces stereotypes about women’s priorities that we’ve been working for decades to shatter, so just cut it out. And, the “individual choice” women have to become stay-at-home moms becomes precarious when they try to return to the workplace and find their earning power and options reduced. If we could see child-rearing as a necessary task and not an identity, and if we could collectively recognize that facilitating it benefits us all, we would go much further in guaranteeing women’s choices than we do when we are expected to uncritically celebrate every individual’s decisions.

Q. Is it realistic to hope that an individual woman will act for the good of all women?

Ms. Feldt: Well, you can’t beat people over the head with it, but there needs to be a discussion. At the rate we’re going, it will take 70 years for women to reach parity with men in influential leadership roles.

The rest of the interview is here and an excerpt from the book is available here. Have any Ms. JD readers read the book? I am interested to hear your thoughts!

6 Comments

Kate Sherwood

This post inspired a lot of comments from me. So many, in fact, that they were a little too long for this format.
I don’t know if posting a link to another blog is condoned, but I thought I should at least be up front about posting my comments.
Here is the address: http://allthistomorrow.blogspot.com/2010/10/more-than-just-necessary-task.html

jlwallace

I have to say, I linked to the interview and chapter expecting some outrage. I wasn’t ready to write a whole post on my thoughts, but I thought it might spark some debate here on Ms. JD. The two questions and answers I posted from the N.Y. Times interview are pretty extreme (and I honestly don’t fully agree with her take), but I think some of our readers wholeheartedly side with Ms. Feldt. 

jessie

I get the “shock” here, but I don’t have the same objections. It’s very easy to get behind the idea of professional women everywhere finding “what is best for their family, their relationship, and each parent’s own emotional and self-fulfillment needs.”  The problem is that time after time that translates to men working more, getting paid, and moving into management, while women “balance.” All well and good for their kids, unless their kids happen to be girls and dream of, oh I don’t know, becoming CEOs or managing partners.
How many generations of bright hard working girls’ dreams are we willing to sacrifice for our definition of what is “best”?  How can you be a good mother if your choices curtail your daughter’s? I ask this question with all sincerity as a person trying to find the answers, not as a person with the answers judging other women’s choices. I just don’t think it’s that easy to say, “I’m cutting back at work because that’s what’s best for my family” and leave it at that.

Kate Sherwood

Regarding “Interested to Hear:” The part of the interview you posted certainly was the most likely to elicit feedback one way or the other—and I am glad you posted a link to the entire interview too. I would have thought there would have been more discussion! Although I do feel pretty strongly about my view, I was thoroughly interested in reading opinions from both sides and from any one who may have read the book.

Kate Sherwood

Regarding jessie’s comment: I do happen to agree with you on how our choices affect our daughters’ futures—not only in the opportunities they will have but in the examples they have as they are growing up. I am constantly trying to find the balance between self-sacrifice and pursuing my own interests—not only because I want to be happy and a happy mom makes a better mom, but because I want my daughter to be happy as an adult too and put herself first sometimes as well.
You have a valid point. 

CM

There’s an alternative.
Rather than telling women to focus on their careers and not their families, both women AND men should have a REAL choice about whether to focus on their career or their family. (To the extent this is financially plausible for the family in question, of course.)
I think if a parent wants to and can afford to work part-time or not at all to nurture their family, more power to them. Rather than telling women not to stay home with the kids, let’s create an environment where it is equally accepted for men to stay howe with the kids, AND where in practice, both women and men actually do. We’re starting to move in that direction.

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