Radcliffe Panel Probes Dual Roles of Professional Mothers

Eleanor G. White ’67 always thought she’d spend a few years working and then the rest of her life raising children. Margo Seltzer ’83 came to Harvard College not even thinking about “family stuff.”

Both women have ended up juggling career and family responsibilities.

Seltzer, McKay professor of computer science, and White, president of an affordable housing consulting firm, spoke to an audience at an Ann Radcliffe Trust event Wednesday about the difficulties of the balancing act that women often end up playing.

“My son came [with me] to the office,” Seltzer said. “He attended more Faculty meetings than most faculty.”

The panel of College graduates said issues of work and family are especially hard for ambitious Harvard students, who choose paths that make managing family life difficult.


“The thing that we look for in candidates is leadership quality, a healthy ambition,” said another panelist, senior admissions officer and first-year proctor Matt DeGreeff ’89. DeGreeff said some students feel that “if you don’t go out and do something great, you’re not fulfilling your Harvard charge.”

“You also have to learn to balance your life and your work,” he said.

The panelists, drawn from different age groups and vocations, discussed different methods of balancing family life and career responsibilities.

“One of the smartest things that I did was find a fabulous nanny,” White said. White also arranges her work schedule around her children.

“My deal with my two partners is, they travel, I don’t,” she said.

Seltzer’s children, on the other hand, traveled with her.

“I would not have traded having kids in the office for the anything,” Seltzer said. “It means Mommy going to work is not a mysterious thing.”

Growing up in different eras, White and Seltzer expected very different lives. Now young people’s expectations may be changing again—and rather significantly among young men, according to Leslie Cintron of the Radcliffe Public Policy Institute.

“Young people and particularly young men have changed their attitudes on these issues,” Cintron said, citing an institute study from last year.

Cintron came to the panel to survey audience members for their opinions.