Serena Sigillito, Editor of Public Discourse, journal of the Witherspoon Institute, was one of six journalists awarded the 2019 Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship by the Fund for American Studies in September. This prestigious, year-long program allows writers early in their careers to pursue projects they otherwise would be unable to research and report. Today, the Novak Program has awarded 141 fellowships to promising young journalists who are climbing the ranks as groundbreaking reporters, editors, editorial page writers, columnists and authors. Novak Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their field as Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters, editors of national magazines and authors of best-selling books.
Serena’s project is entitled “Women’s Work: How Modern Moms Find Fulfillment in Caregiving and Career Building” and she plans to publish it as a series of essays. Through in-depth interviews, polling, and academic research, Serena will explore the innovative strategies mothers can use to flourish both at home and in the workplace. She will also highlight the ways that employers can capitalize on the strengths of the mothers they employ, analyze the benefits and limitations of various public policy proposals, and report on the benefits offered to hourly vs. salaried employees of companies in the private sector that market themselves as being family-friendly.
Serena describes her project this way:
My project begins with a simple premise, but one that has become radically countercultural: men and women are different, and they want different things. This is especially true in parenthood. Given mothers’ intense psychological and biological bonds with their young children, they tend to want different things from their careers than men do—and that’s okay.
I agree with figures like Sheryl Sandberg who believe that we need to break down internal and external barriers to success, but I think she gets the ultimate goal wrong. In her view, we should work for a world in which 50 percent of companies are run by female CEOs and 50 percent of stay-at-home parents are men. In my view, we should work for a world in which families are supported, and mothers can grow professionally and personally while still spending substantial amounts of time with their children when they are needed the most. If we let parents freely choose, I don’t think we’ll end up with a perfect 50-50 split. Instead, I have a hunch that more mothers will choose flexible, part-time working arrangements that allow them to spend more time at home.
Strong families are foundational to free, thriving societies, and Serena’s work will uncover ways to promote the flourishing of mothers and their children. Stay tuned for Serena’s essays, several of which will be featured in Public Discourse.