A call for women and men to have a more honest conversation about work-life balance:
Today, however, women in power can and should change that environment, although change is not easy. When I became dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, in 2002, I decided that one of the advantages of being a woman in power was that I could help change the norms by deliberately talking about my children and my desire to have a balanced life. Thus, I would end faculty meetings at 6 p.m. by saying that I had to go home for dinner; I would also make clear to all student organizations that I would not come to dinner with them, because I needed to be home from six to eight, but that I would often be willing to come back after eight for a meeting. I also once told the Dean’s Advisory Committee that the associate dean would chair the next session so I could go to a parent-teacher conference.
After a few months of this, several female assistant professors showed up in my office quite agitated. ‘You have to stop talking about your kids,’ one said. ‘You are not showing the gravitas that people expect from a dean, which is particularly damaging precisely because you are the first woman dean of the school.’ I told them that I was doing it deliberately and continued my practice, but it is interesting that gravitas and parenthood don’t seem to go together.