Anne-Marie Slaughter is long—very long—on the problems facing upwardly mobile female professionals. Rightfully so. But she is short—very short—on solutions to these problems. Slaughter thinks we need more female politicians and leaders, tout court. She offers nothing more specific. No explicit policies. Slaughter’s proposal, I think, comes off as rather empty.
Meanwhile, she completely ignores measures that have worked relatively well to improve the lot of women. Take The Global Gender Gap Report 2011 from the World Economic Forum. Top-ranking places like Scandinavia and Western Europe crush America, which ranks 17th for gender parity. Let’s compare some examples: The US has no federal or state laws mandating maternity leave for employers, and no national or state program for paternity leave. Norway (ranked 2nd), on the other hand, requires a total of 9 weeks maternity leave, with 100% of wages paid, and offers 12 weeks, 100%-paid paternity leave. It’s strikingly obvious which country makes it easier to be an upwardly mobile woman with a family.
“We may need to put a woman in the White House,” Slaughter claims, “before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart.” Yet Norway has had only one female head of state. Iceland (ranked 1st) just elected its first. Sweden (4th) has had zero. Now, these countries are not quite perfect when it comes to gender parity or other issues, but they certainly illustrate concrete steps in the right direction–none of which Slaughter suggests.
I dislike the implication of her proposal: Men simply cannot help solve these problems—only leaders of the female gender can. In truth, putting in place good policy is happily gender neutral.