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Panel discusses "Should women do it all?” question

A panel of female alumni discussed the question “Should women do it all?” at a Reunions discussion on Friday moderated by politics professor Tali Mendelberg.

“For me, the question ‘Should women do it all?’ is a question that gets asked a lot,” said Chloe S. Angyal ’09, senior editor of Feministing.com and senior facilitator of The Op Ed Project, noting that she has heard the question asked often at Reunions. She added jokingly, “I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow’s ‘Should men do it all?’ panel. I’m sure that will be a rousing debate.”

Angyal said it was clear to her that there was and still is a need for feminism at the University. She said she was pleased that the University was being investigated under Title IX for sexual assault on campus, because she said that women cannot be expected to “do it all” after graduating — have a family, work, and do public service – on top of dealing with the psychological trauma of sexual assault. She said that there should be more facilitation to help women achieve balance between staying at home and going to work.

Besides Angyal, he panelists were Ann J. Morning GS ’04, associate professor of sociology at New York University; Juanita James ’74, president and CEO of the Fairfield County Community Foundation; Christine Whelan ’99, a senior research fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Allison Ball Swope ’04, product manager at Facebook; and Chloe S. Angyal ’09,

The only way to have this conversation about balance is to include men as well, Morning said, adding that she was disappointed that the panel consisted only of women. She noted as a point of comparison that African-Americans cannot discuss race alone but must also bring white people into the conversation.

“Should women do it all? Absolutely,” James said. However, she added that women cannot always “do it all” with equal intensity and equal quality. She explained there have been times in her life when her career suffered, when she felt like she was not doing enough at home and when she wasn’t spending enough time with her friends. However, the support network, especially the support of her husband, has been crucial to her success.

“There are bumps,” James said. “But you have to have the resilience to keep going.”

Swope said that she was excited to be on the panel, but had problems with the word “should” in the title of the panel, since she said that she has recently decided that she would stop “shoulding” herself, meaning that she does not think she should have any sense of obligation to do it all.

“The person who is going to ‘should’ you the most, is yourself,” Swope said, adding that “that person in your head is always wrong.”

She said the main thought she has in making life decisions has been to focus on what she wants. She added that she makes an effort to invest in herself and her happiness, saying that the most important thing for her is to have fun.

Whelan said that she really thought she was able to easily do it all when she was an undergraduate, but added that she has since found that she had to work hard in order to be happy in both her professional and personal lives. “Life comes at you like a freight train and behind all of the success of the women on this panel, we have experienced pain, loss, anguish,” Whelan said.

She said that she believes in a holistic approach to education, and that the University should prepare undergraduates with practical knowledge in how to form relationships so they can have whatever form of balance they want in their lives.

Whelan is a former editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian.

Questions from the audience addressed how women from the University in particular grapple with the issues of work-life balance and whether the seemingly timeless question of women being able to do it all will ever have a clear answer.

“If we’ve been asking the same question for 40 years, maybe it’s time to start asking a different question,” Angyal said.

The panel, entitled “The ‘Invisible Syllabus’: Should Princeton Women Do It All?” took place at 9 a.m. in Robertson Hall’s Dodds Auditorium.

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