No, says Julie Bishop, you can’t have it all! Actually, that all depends - Women's Agenda

No, says Julie Bishop, you can’t have it all! Actually, that all depends

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop doesn’t mince her words when it comes to whether or not women can “have it all” – nor does she leave much room for debate on the matter.

“No, you can’t have it all,” she said in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.

“I’m in the Anne-Marie Slaughter school – women can’t have it all,” she said referring to the US academic’s much hyped about article in The Atlantic last year. “They can have plenty of choices, but at the end of the day, they choose something which means they can’t have something else.”

Bishop later told Sky News she can’t “vouch for everything” that’s reported in the Telegraph and wasn’t criticising women who think they “can have it all”, but simply “debating it as a matter of fact that if you make choices you rule out other alternatives”.

Yes, there are particular choices we make that rule out other options. Men do this too.

But there are choices we can put off for a while. Indeed, we can “have it all” – but perhaps just not all at the same time, unless sleep remains omitted from the “have it all’ equation.

It’s arguable that former attorney-general Nicola Roxon is “having it all” in such a way. Having spent years pursuing a high-profile political career, she’s announced her resignation from government in order to spend more time with her seven-year-old daughter. Roxon’s put in the hours to pursue an excellent career and in many ways it’s afforded her this new opportunity: to find time more time for her child, on her own terms.

Surely, that’s close to “having it all”?

Bishop, who has no children but says she did expect to have children, was a law firm managing partner before she went to Harvard University in her late 30s and became set on a career in politics. She doesn’t believe she could have pursued the career she has and had children at the same time. “I was 40 when I went into politics and the window closes pretty quickly at 40. So politics is pretty much my life,” she told The Telegraph.

So could anybody in Bishop’s position have had it all?

We seem to define “having it all’ as having a successful and fulfilling career and raising a family. But such a career doesn’t have to be as deputy opposition leader, or even in Slaughter’s case as a high-level adviser to the US President. It doesn’t have to be as a partner in a law firm, or the chief executive officer of a bank. And yet for some reason when we debate the point of “having it all” we look at a small number of women with often quite specific job titles to ask the question.

And we’re told whether or not we can have it all by these high-profile women – women who often have plenty of cash to afford the help they need – and rarely from those of us – the majority of us – who are desperately determined to work hard and advance our careers, albeit if we have to step aside for part of our careers in order to pursue more personal commitments for a period of time.

Maybe you can’t be the deputy prime minister and “have it all”. Or, maybe you can. That’s up for you to decide – not Julie Bishop.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox