Ivanka Trump’s latest book is titled Women Who Work. But don’t be misled: This is not a guide for all working women, but rather the very specific set who use recruiters, can firmly set the hours that allow them to make it home for “baths and bedtime,” and are largely unburdened by the costs of childcare. In other words, Women Who Work is not for people like me—a mother who works without full-time employee protection, easily affordable childcare options or paid maternity leave.
It’s no surprise Trump’s is not the every-woman’s story. Take, for example, the anecdote about the professional dilemma she faced when she was preparing to graduate from college: she already had one strong offer from a firm in her intended field of real estate. Then her phone rang. “I’d been up late studying and had been asleep for only a little while but I answered, groggy, knowing that no one would call a college student at 8 A.M. unless it was really important,” she said. “It was Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue.”
Of course, it would be ridiculous of Trump to attempt to conceal her privilege. The bigger crime is that she doesn’t seem aware just how large the discrepancy between her working life and the working lives of the majority of American women truly is. Although there are passing references to women in non-traditional work arrangements, Women Who Work is largely devoted to women in the upper levels of a career track with spousal support and comprehensive childcare.
Personal responsibility, rather than institutional change, is Trump’s overwhelming answer to how women can achieve more equality in the workplace. And, even then, the scenarios are largely removed from reality. For instance, her solution for erasing the gender pay gap involves a woman seeking at least two competing job offers, so she can go to the negotiating table with power from the knowledge of what the competitor is promising. If that isn’t possible, Trump says the woman should confer with insiders at the offering company to learn more about their rates.
Objectively, there is nothing wrong with that—but where does that kind of hard bargaining leave the women who don’t have the luxury of job options? Or when it comes to her suggestion about being firm with the need to make it home before bedtime, how does that help women working hourly shifts under employers with “work or be replaced” philosophies? Or how are single mothers helped when Trump equates the necessary traits of “passion and perseverance” with occasionally late work nights aided by a spouse who can put the children to bed?
Oh, but take heart, women working to make ends meet: in Trump’s view, all it takes to succeed is a different perspective.
“When you’re focused on simply finding or doing a job in order to make ends meet, the concept of satisfaction at work might seem irrelevant, even precious—but similar to passion, connecting with a career, a cause, and our colleagues is an essential component to success.”
As for the elephant in the delivery room—parental leave—Trump dances around the politicalization of it by instead saying that generous policies are in the best interests of individual companies. She adds that her own company offers eight paid weeks off for maternity, paternity and adoptive leave. However, little weight can be placed in that, considering Trump positions herself in the book as a worker so committed that she got on her family’s private jet just days after giving birth to one of her children in order to close a deal.
Even more indicative of how enlightened Trump truly is comes from a Facebook post; shared last October by one of Trump’s former employees. Here’s an excerpt:
“I asked about maternity leave she said she would have to think about it [sic], that at Trump they don’t offer maternity leave and that she went back to work just a week after having her first child… Our team—the ones who created #WomenWhoWork and the ones who the hashtag really stood for—fought long and hard to get her to finally agree to 8 weeks’ paid maternity leave.”
As with that example and many more Trump willingly revealed in the book, she seems to expect all women are capable of making the same “sacrifices” she did for the sake of her career. The only problem is, her version of sacrifice is viewed through rosé-colored glasses.