Sylvia Ann Hewlett knows what it’s like to be caught between the demands of a job and caring for a family.
Hewlett, an author and economist, was given 10 days off from her professorship at Barnard College in the 1970s to recover from bearing a child. A few years later, she was pregnant with twins and miscarried. The school gave her two days to recuperate.
Hewlett said she reached a tipping point in 1982, when, pregnant with a son, she went against the college’s policy and took a leave of absence to ensure a healthy birth.
She was fired.
Since then, Hewlett has been examining the issue of family-friendly, workplace policies.
Tonight, she will share some of her latest findings and theories during a public lecture at Arizona State University.
She’s written several books, including the controversial “Creating A Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children,” which landed her on “Oprah.” In it, she encourages young women to focus on starting a family before they turn 35 and before their biological clocks stop ticking.
The book rattled feminists, and criticism abounded.
Some feminists said that Hewlett’s advice basically equates telling women that they should go back to the kitchen and become baby-makers.
Hewlett, though, maintains that women should not have to choose between a career and a family.
“I see feminism as giving women richer choices and multidimensional lives,” Hewlett said Tuesday.
Despite the criticism, Hewlett said her suggestions are having an effect on employers. She said she has tried to inspire policy changes by working closely with companies.
From General Electric to Intel, several Fortune 500 companies “are actually putting policies in place that reflect my recommendations,” she said.
In the meantime, she said, she wants to share her life lessons, as well as her research, with young men and women through teaching. While directing Columbia University’s Gender and Public Policy Program, she’s been commuting to Tempe to teach 10 students in the ASU Barrett Honors College about gender issues in domestic and international policy.
She is currently the John J. Rhodes chair at the college, an endowment honoring the public service of the Arizona congressman.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s lecture
Topic: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success When: 7:30 p.m. today Where: Arizona State University’s Katzin Concert Hall, Mill Avenue and Gammage Parkway, Tempe Cost: Free. Tickets for seating are available at the door.