Children and housework. Call me naive but I have come to the conclusion they are the key factors that keep women down and explain why men still make the most money and get most of the best jobs in the world. At least that is true, I think, in the developed world, where you have adequate laws to protect the physical safety of women. It's a wholly different and far nastier ball game outside the developed world.
I have been preoccupied with such questions ever since I took part in a Women's Foundation forum about the changing role of men. For women to get ahead, tie men down in domesticity. Make men do half or more of the housework and take care of the children. That, at least, is part of what Facebook's formidable chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, recommends couples do. She is right about that. She also recommends that women never underestimate their abilities and do not let the work-family balance get in the way of ambition. By aiming higher, harder and faster, Sandberg seems to say, women can have it all.
Enter Anne-Marie Slaughter, until recently the first woman director of policy planning at the US State Department. Slaughter declares in an Atlantic article that she has quit and that women can't have it all, not unless the modern workplace is radically transformed; and that Sandberg is making women feel like losers if they abandon work for home.
I admire Professor Slaughter for her books on US foreign policy but I envy Sandberg for her wealth. I am with the professor. In her commencement speech at Barnard College in 2011, Sandberg didn't just say women shouldn't underestimate themselves; she said they should overestimate themselves like most successful men. She observes, correctly, that men tend to equate their success with skills, and failure with bad luck, whereas women acknowledge luck in their success. Sandberg says women should tell themselves 'I am awesome', like the guys. Inflated executive pay, anyone?
Much of success in politics, business and life itself is random - a matter of luck. We need more men to admit that, not more women to imitate the psychotic egoism of alpha males.