Michelle Obama on Mother's Day and Beyond

BY: Claire Shipman and Katty Kay

 

Continued from page 1

And this isn't a choice she made recently, by the way. Sure, you might think. Easy to dial back when your fallback position is FIRST LADY! But even as a young lawyer in fact, Michelle seems to have known instinctively that in life you CAN have it all, but you don't have to have it all or even do it all, at the same time. She made career trade-offs early on. She left her big salary, and the hard-to-abandon "prestige" of a slot at a top Chicago law firm after a few years -- rejecting the hours and the stress to pursue city government work. Just as many hours and as much stress, but she liked it better. When her children were born, she knew she needed time and flexibility. She sought a job with the University of Chicago Hospital system -- near her home and the children's school. Indeed she often tells the story of how she actually had a babysitter bail on her the day of her interview -- and decided, at the last minute, instead of canceling, to bring Malia, in stroller, along. That way, she figured, her priorities would be clear. Now that's confidence.

She understood that careers are no longer straight, forbidding ladders than need to be climbed with gritted teeth. And she also understood that she wanted a hand in raising her children. That it's finally fine to admit women are not the same as men. She understood the genius of what we call Womenomics, a workplace revolution led by and designed for all professional women.

Women have more power in the marketplace than ever before. We are more valuable to companies than we realize. Indeed, businesses that employ more senior women actually make more money. We are better educated than men. We consume more. Our management styles are not only different, but essential. We're, you guessed it, more feminine. We consult, conciliate, and avoid high-risk. And it works.

Companies need and want us, and that power is enabling us to remake the workplace into a more flexible, less linear place. Women everywhere are negotiating for what they really want -- control over their time. A majority of career women say they would happily trade status and money for more of that invaluable commodity. And really -- doesn't it make sense, isn't it nice, to be able to get what we really want? Oh we're not all ruling out the top, mind you. We'd just like the option to take another path.

So when we hear, occasionally, the argument that Mrs. Obama is somehow committing professional suicide and betraying her feminist forebears by giving up her career, or in focusing to heavily on being a homemaker as First Lady, we beg to differ. Big time. Does anybody really doubt that Michelle Obama, or other women like her, will be able get back into the workforce? Please. In fact, she's helping all women by continuing to redefine feminism in ways that really work for us. Saner careers, that might ebb and flow. Isn't that a feminist victory?

©2009 Claire Shipman & Katty Kay, authors of Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success

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