FORTUNE -- In what felt like a knockdown, drag out election season, we heard plenty about the problems in Washington and improving the lives of American women. As a foreign policy professor and a woman who has worked in Washington, Anne-Marie Slaughter knows these issues all too well.
Slaughter currently teaches at Princeton, but last year, she ended a two-year term as the director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. She was previously dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Slaughter also, suddenly, reignited the perennial debate among working women this past summer after she wrote an article in The Atlantic called "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." She spoke with Fortune about leadership in Washington and why women should not blame themselves if they are struggling to balance work and family.
An edited transcript is below.
Fortune: You've been a dean and you've worked in the State Department. How do you lead differently in academia versus in the government?
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Well, my one-liner is that in academia, you're rewarded for coming up with a really big idea that has only your name on it, but in Washington, you're rewarded for cutting big ideas into little ideas and getting other people to think they thought of them. It's an old adage in Washington that you can get anything done if you don't want to take credit for it, and it is true.
But the real difference is Washington is the politics. I don't know if the politics are fiercer but they're different. I had to watch my back a lot more.
People were out to get you? More
Here's the way it goes: one group of greedy, inventive mothers cooks up a whole bunch of ways to make money off of their intricate knowledge of the system and how it operates. Some of those ways are even legal under the rules, which were cleverly manipulated ahead of time. Others were not legal, but were not punished until it became fashionable to do so. This group does its thing until MOREBing - May 10, 2010 11:10 AM ET
|Meet AOI, Apple's mysterious Irish subsidiary - updated|
|The only Fortune 500 company that's grown faster than Apple|
|Only half of all Americans invested in stocks|
|Suburban poverty soars|