A copy of this unpublished letter to the editor surfaced serendipitously one evening in 2005, following a Center for Science in Society sponsored discussion on Parenting that itself was a followup to earlier discussions of Gender and Science and Family Issues. The letter is provided here for its possible relevance to conversations on these topics, at Bryn Mawr and elsewhere, as well as to the Center's Women, Gender and Culture initiative.

9 October 1994

The Editor
Sunday Business Section
The New York Times

To the Editor:

"Back from the mommy track" (October 9) is (I think) well-meaning, but by its emphasis contributes to the problem rather than to the solution, for individuals and businesses alike. The conflict between family and professional advancement is painfully played out in the lives of individual women (and men) but does not originate there. It originates instead in the self-centeredness of business (and other professions), and in the blandishments held out by them to try and persuade individuals to identity with the primacy of business and professional values. Stories of the withholding of blandishments from women who, even to a small extent, challenge that self-centeredness are not suprising. And focusing primarily on such sotires, as the articles does, cannot but make the real problem worse. Women who choose to accede to institutional self-centeredness will feel validated in their own stories, and those considering resisting will feel even more pressure to acceded.

The real story to be written is one about the increasing numbers of women (and men) who are electing to ignore the blandishments and make their choices in terms of coherent individual lives, rather than in relation to an apparent conflict between family and profession that is itself both a creation of institutional self-centeredness and a weapon employed on its behalf. It is these individuals who can best serve as models dealing with the same problem.

And it is these individuals who, by voting effectively with their bodies and minds, will ultimately solve the problem. The loss of the best and the brightest from our businesses and professions cannot be indefinitely ignored. It will necessarily and progressively transform the arrogance of institutional self-centeredness into a wiser and more enlightened self interest, one in which institutional and individual values are recognized as mutually supportive rather than at odds.

More attention to the Professor Chritensens and Mary Ellen McCormacks ("One who left and doesn't look back", an inside article on October 9) of the world, and less to the Jaqueline Irwins and Kitty Knechts could usefully accelerate the process.

Paul Grobstein


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