The Magazine

A Delicate Balance

How professional women meet the needs of life and work.

Oct 5, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 03 • By SABRINA L. SCHAEFFER
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But they restrain themselves from taking this observation one step further. Nowhere do they push for greater government protections; in fact, while I anticipated at least a plug for the re-introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in their epilogue, I was met with something quite different. They spend the final pages recounting the many different ways corporations have adopted flexible work plans that meet the needs of all their employees.

"Companies increasingly realize that what's important is what you produce, not how, where, and when you do it," they write. In short, the market is playing a vital role in directing employer-employee relations. And fortunately, this is increasingly becoming the case for the broad middle class of women, not just the lucky elite. If you're good at your job, and your employer would feel your loss, you have leverage.

Still, a few questions linger in my mind: Would Womenomics have received the same level of praise from women in the corporate and media worlds had it been written by Laura Ingraham and Megyn Kelly? Did this shift in the discussion have to come from the center-left? And does it matter where it comes from if it reflects a pivotal shift in the way society views women and women view themselves?

For too long, the assumption has been that society is hostile to women and that women are victims in need of government protection. And yet today, it seems, the outdated image of the activist feminist has been replaced by a new ideal: the self-empowering woman. That's not to say women are the same as men, or that they don't need men. Quite the opposite: Simply that victimology has become passé.

My first job in Washington was as an assistant to the former United Nations ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. The first woman to serve in this cabinet post, a professor at Georgetown, wife, and mother of three sons, she clearly helped tear down some walls of her own. What I remember most from my experience with Jeane Kirkpatrick, however, has little to do with foreign affairs. One day, in her office, she said to me: "Women can do anything they want--just not everything at the same time."

I suspect Shipman and Kay would agree.

Sabrina L. Schaeffer, a visiting fellow with the Independent Women's Forum, is a managing partner of Evolving Strategies.