Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, former dean of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), announced on Monday, November 28, the launch of her latest book, Renewal: Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work and Politics. We talked about to. In a talk, she and college dean Jill Dolan pondered feminist leadership and the struggle for gender equality.
Their conversation took place at the annual Phyllis Marchand Leadership Lecture held at the Princeton Public Library.
Slaughter was president of the American Society of International Law from 2002 to 2009 and chair of the SPIA from 2002 to 2009, and served as chief policymaker for the U.S. State Department under President Barack Obama. . He was a liberal think tank and Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Affairs at Bert G. Carstetter ’66 College.
Asked what she hoped readers would take away from her new book, Slaughter told the Daily Princetonian, “We cannot move forward as a country unless we are truly willing to face our past.”
“It’s very hard to look back and you have to face it,” she added.
Slaughter famously wrote about the impossible expectations society has of working mothers in her 2012 essay “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic. The article, detailing her own experience as a State Department employee, became the most read article in the publication’s history and earned her profile on The Washington Post and NPR.
“When I read that article, it was very close to my experience: ‘I had just returned to work after going on maternity leave, and my boss told me not to go out of my way to return.'”
Slaughter admitted on Monday that she will forever be known for that essay, regardless of her other accomplishments, but she seemed eager to answer Dolan’s questions about the new book.
“I was in the middle of a crisis,” said Slaughter. “There were two really bad stories about me and, more importantly, about my organization on the front page of the New York Times.”
The New York Times reported on Slaughter in 2017. The article slammed her as CEO of New America after her organization fired multiple employees who were critical of her Google. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt ’76 was a donor and board member of New America from 1999 to 2016 (Schmidt is also a major donor to the university).
Slaughter said one of her first reactions in the wake of the controversy was to call one of her longtime mentors and fellow director of New America, David Bradley.
“He told me to run for criticism,” she said. “I took his advice. I want you to tell me what you are doing.”
“The act of being introspective about how you lead while you lead is a challenge you present yourself,” Doran said. I want to say that I’m trying to lead with sexuality.”
Their conversation was about what it means to be a female leader in a male-dominated organization.
“In your book, you talked about rejecting the concept of vertical leadership for the sake of the horizontal concept of leadership, and I think this is a very feminist principle,” said Dolan. “How do you bring that spirit to the table?”
Slaughter said she prefers fluidity at work.
“There are two ways to wield power: you can be at the top of the ladder in vertical structures, or you can be the center of the web in horizontal structures.”
“There’s strength in both places, but I care about being in the center,” she added.
Both speakers acknowledged that leadership is not always manifested in outward behavior and that leaders should know when to step aside and make room for other perspectives.
Slaughter recalls her commencement address at Barnard College in 2016. Her students then wrote an editorial protesting her choice and demanding that her author Chimamanda her Adichi speak instead.
“I want my commencement speaker to be someone like me who preaches feminism. Feminism is intersecting and inclusive to the core,” wrote one student in the petition.
Slaughter said at the time they were divided over whether to give her address, but confessed in a speech on Monday that she should have given Adichie time to speak.
“It could have been a room-making moment,” she said.
Dolan echoed this sentiment of inclusion when describing his experience as a college dean.
“A lot of the time, I think leadership is about intervention,” she said.
“I’m trying to figure out how to be aware of people who aren’t talking in the room and call them,” she added.
Towards the end of the conversation, the speakers emphasized that shyness is not unique to women, nor is leadership unique to men. I thought it was in a social structure that could be understood and dismantled.
“Leadership is not inborn,” Slaughter concludes. “But it can take root.”
Anna Salvatore is a Staff News Writer for The Prince.Please contact the person in charge of corrections for correction requests.[at]Dailyprincetonian.com.