Women want it all? It's time to fight for it

Women can have it all if they fight for what they need.

That was the message that came from a powerful woman who sparked a national debate last week about women and their success in the workplace and as mothers.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former U.S. State Department official and now a Princeton professor, spoke about her The Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, Monday on TODAY, and wanted to make it clear that her piece was not negative but more of a call to action to women struggling with balancing work and life.

“Women have come leaps and bounds,” she said about the advancements women have made in the workplace, “but we need another round of change.”

Working mothers, she continued, make it to a point in their career where they’re beginning to climb the ladder of success, but then they end up feeling “unbelievably torn” when family and work responsibilities clash.

Indeed, many women are questioning whether they can really have it all. An informal poll taken last week in an article about Slaughter’s story and the controversy that ensured, asked “Do you think women can have it all?” found only 11 percent of the nearly 4,000 respondents felt it was possible, compared to 48 percent that offered a resounding “no” to the question.

But in a sign of hope, 41 percent voted: “Maybe, when the workplace changes.”

And it’s change Slaughter wants to see.

“We need to be honest about how hard it is,” she said about the first step women need to take. And secondly, she stressed, “you have to ask for what you need. If you need to work from home, ask for it.”

In the end, she added, it’s all about a serious “desire for change.”

Change needs to happen on a larger scale as well, maintained Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. 

"Most of America’s women and their families are confronted on a daily basis with the fact that ‘having it all’ is still a distant dream, and we know that it will not get better until our workplaces are family friendly," she said. "We need policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave for all workers, and all workers need the flexibility to be caregivers and breadwinners for their families."

Slaughter's article, she added, "should be a call to action for employers and lawmakers to finally address the growing demand for workplaces that meet the needs of 21st century families."