The Elusive Quest for Equality: Women, Work, and the Next Wave of Humanism


Recently, articles are showing up in the news, specifically the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal, discussing the persistent problem of equality for professional women in the workplace, specifically mothers. Anne Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor who recently left her job at the state department due to problems with balancing her work and home-life, wrote an article in the Atlantic. That article described a woman whose life was the  epitome of the feminist ideal: a mother and policy adviser for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. That ideal was accompanied, however, by a domestic disaster brought on by weeks spent away from her family and a rebellious teenager who had a mother with little time for him. As she questioned whether her job in Washington was doable and at what cost, she began hearing from younger women who complained about the advice given by the likes of Ms. Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg, a top executive at Facebook, cautions women that in order to get ahead and have it all, they must push “higher-harder-faster.” Slaughter states that the Obama administration and other top companies have failed to realize that the pressures facing women in the workplace are far different than those facing men, even men that are fathers. The workplace is evolving and so too must the leading court opinions on inequality.

Since Roe v. Wade and its progeny, the prevailing view has been that women’s ability to control their reproductive life is necessary to achieve equality. In fact, the Supreme Court’s opinion on  equality has been, “[t]he ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life  of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability  to control their reproductive lives.” “Their ability to realize their full potential, the Court recognized, is intimately connected to ‘their ability to control their reproductive lives.’”Although women and minorities are no longer excluded from most jobs by law or overt discrimination, significant barriers continue to preclude full workplace equality for these groups. Particularly, the legal profession lacks gender and racial parity as women and minorities remain dramatically underrepresented in senior positions and may be getting less out of their jobs than their white, male counterparts. Other professions, such as academia, suffer as well. Despite these significant disparities, there is no consensus on how to progress toward full workplace equality or what such equality would look like.Mothers and caregivers in particular suffer great indignities and discrimination based solely on their roles as mothers and caregivers.

This article posits that the era of focusing on the right to procure an abortion and control reproduction has run its course. Instead, the next step forward in the pursuit of equality must focus on the right to a healthy lifestyle.

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Sandra Simpson, The Elusive Quest for Equality: Women, Work, and the Next Wave of Humanism, 48 Gonz. L. Rev. 279 (2013).

About dkazemba

David Kazemba J.D. Candidate 2014

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