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Creating a Life Paperback – January 7, 2004

3.1 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Between a third and a half of all high-achieving women in America do not have children" and "the vast majority yearn" for them, says Hewlett, founder of the National Parenting Association. In this study of baby lust, Hewlett portrays the anguished hand-wringing by middle-aged women who were career-obsessed throughout their 20s and 30s, only to wake up single at 40, biological clocks all petered out. Infertility treatment is not a solution, she says; it's expensive, dangerous to women's health and unlikely to produce a pregnancy, much less a live, healthy baby. Moms and potential moms from playwright Wendy Wasserstein to a 46-year-old single woman who traveled to China to adopt illustrate Hewlett's thesis that "some of the most heartfelt struggles of the breakthrough generation have centered on the attempt to snatch a child from the jaws of menopause. A few succeed; most do not." Hewlett attests that "if high-altitude careers inevitably exact a price, it's profoundly unfair that the highest prices... are paid by women." "Self-indulgent" women might try to have a child and a career by hiring a nanny, but for Hewlett, it's more "courageous" for a woman to forgo childbearing if a career is her real goal. Hewlett's advice to young women is strangely retro: get married you'll be happier and healthier. She counsels them to give "urgent priority" to finding a marriage partner fast, "have your first baby before 35" and look for work at a family-friendly corporation. Though ardently argued, her case is unconvincing. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Founder of the National Parenting Association, Hewlett reports on new data showing nearly half of the most successful women in corporate America are childless, mostly contrary to their heartfelt desires. Hewlett begins with interviews of high-powered women--lawyers, journalists, scholars, doctors, businesswomen--who wanted children but ran out of time to begin their families. She reviews recent data on career women and their odds of marrying and raising a family, noting that despite promising medical technology, most women over the age of 40 aren't able to conceive and deliver healthy babies. According to the author, "most of the heartfelt struggles of the breakthrough generation have centered on the attempt to snatch a child from the jaws of menopause." Finally, she presents strategies on how young women can avoid the fate of the previous generation and what corporations can do to support women who want both careers and families. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax (January 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401359302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401359300
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,559,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Ann Hewlett is the founding president and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation and the founding partner of Hewlett Consulting Partners LLC. She's also the co-director of the Women's Leadership Program at the Columbia Business School and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Association. An economist with 20 years of experience in global talent management, Hewlett has particularly focused on the "power of difference" and the challenges and opportunities faced by women, minorities and other previously excluded groups. She has forged a signature style of enquiry which blends hard data and rigorous analysis with concrete solutions and on-the-ground action.

She is the author of eleven Harvard Business Review articles and twelve critically acclaimed books, including When the Bough Breaks (winner of a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award); Off-Ramps and On-Ramps; Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets; Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor (named one of the best business books of 2013 by the Globe and Mail and winner of the 2014 Axiom book award); and Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success (an Amazon "Best Book of the Month," June 2014). In 2014 she was recognized as the Most Influential International Thinker by HR magazine and was honored by the European Diversity Awards with its Global Diversity Award. Her writings have appeared in the New York Times, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal, she's a featured blogger on the HBR Blog Network. In 2011 she received the Isabel Benham Award from the Women's Bond Club, and a Women of the Year Award from the Financial Women's Association, and in 2013 she received a Work Life Legacy Award from the Families and Work Institute.

Hewlett has taught at Cambridge, Columbia, and Princeton universities and has held fellowships at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard. In the 1980s she became the first woman to head the Economic Policy Council, a nonprofit composed of 125 business and labor leaders.
Hewlett is a sought-after speaker on the international stage. She has keynoted International Women's Day at the IMF, given the featured address at Pfizer's Emerging Markets Leadership Summit in Dubai, and spoken at the White House. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs, appearing on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, ABC World News Tonight, The Today Show, The View, BBC World News, and Talk of the Nation--and she has been lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

A Kennedy Scholar and graduate of Cambridge University, Hewlett earned her PhD in economics at London University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
....because you think Hewlett has an anti-feminist agenda! I am one of the "high achieving" women that Hewlett describes in her book. I make in excess of $200K, have a demanding professional career....and I desperately want to be a mom too. Luckily, I am married, and I'm only 31. Unluckily, we're in the midst of expensive and emotionally/physically taxing infertility treatments. It happens more than young women may think. I certainly never expected to have trouble. Now I see all these women just like me, struggling to have children. Many people don't see this, because infertility is a very isolating, and painfully personal tragedy. Who wants to go public with being infertile? From my seat in the clinic waiting room, in chat rooms, in discussions with female co-workers, it looks like a silent epidemic. I do not regret waiting until my 30s to start a family -- putting aside my job, I was not emotionally ready to do that. But after reading Hewlett's book, I know that if I want a family (and I do), I was right to start now -- she is dead on when she talks about how the ART industry and the media lull women into a false sense of security about their fertility. There *is* a biological clock, and it should be factored into the choices we make -- not ignored wholesale.
I find the controversy over this book very sad and funny at the same time. Wasn't feminism all about giving women all the information they need to make reasoned choices? The whole idea that feminism is about steering young women into go-go professional careers is as short-sighted and uni-dimensional as the way we deal with the threat of eating disorders (that it's not OK to tell kids to exercise and lose weight because they might develop an eating disorder -- meanwhile most of the country is now overweight).
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Format: Hardcover
This book has a lot to offer. First, Hewlett gave her background as a career woman and why she IS qualified to speak as a mother. Though she was able to have a child at the age of 51, she went through miscarriages and a lot of medical expense to do so. She points out that for many women it's not easy or financially feasible to wait until your forties or fifties, and women should know this. I read articles on independent medical websites about the struggles and risks of having children after age 40. To those who know people who have been successful, good for them. But the websites and fertility clinics are reporting that most women don't have it that easy. Pregnancy rates are 4 out of 10 women among 20-somethings, but it drops to 1 out of 10 women among 40-somethings. It's not as common as it may seem.

Giving people knowledge is NOT a scare-tactic. We women deserve to be informed! It should not be hidden information just because some women are uncomfortable with it or believe that it does not apply in their case.

I have to argue with the idea of "having it all." One of my colleagues used to say, "I can do anything, one thing at a time." Males and females sometimes make the mistake of trying to have high-powered, demanding careers while at the same time undertaking the high-powered, demanding responsibility of being a parent of young children. I agree with the suggestion of having children early on, then working on your career afterwards. You can probably have it all - ONE THING AT A TIME.

Even hard-working fathers make sacrificies, although Hewlett apparently does not notice.
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Format: Hardcover
I think this book stresses the importance of facts and becoming educated on making life decisions. Having children and having a career are both choices and with choices in life there are always consequences. However, what Hewlett points out is that women have been given false information in terms of how long they can wait to have children. Having fertility information at 25 (as opposed to 45 when it's too late) can be helpful when attempting to plan for both career and family and I think her message is just that simple. I agree with her suggestion to look at where you want to be at 45 and plan backwards, however, there is one tiny stipulation. Just because you have a plan, life is full of surprises that cannot be forecast, foreseen, or prevented and plans have to remain flexible enough to change. For example, you can plan to get married at 27, but you may not meet your partner until you are 32.
I think the key is understanding the consequences and potential consequences of making these decisions. I would love to say that in a perfect world, you can have a great career and a great family. However, when maintaining a balance, both areas may not get full attention all the time. Life is a juggling act. You may only be 80% productive on your job and 80% productive on childrearing. But that is much better than neglecting one or the other because both are important.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a 52-year-old man who married at 19, had 5 children by the age of 33, and am now facing the last stages of aplastic anemia. In other words, I think I'm a good deal more qualified to comment on family life than is Ms. Hewlett. I will be honest: Although we both hold masters' degrees, my wife makes twice the income I do, and when we were younger, we split shifts to make BOTH our careers work and enjoy parenting. My wife and I have an income well over six figures, which certainly puts us in Hewlett's "high-acheiving" category. Yet, we could only find a few "caricatures" (since that's exactly what they are) in this book that resembled anyone we knew. We DO have a daughter struggling with infertility--who married at 22, has two advanced degrees, and is 29 and married to an equally accomplished man. Her infertility obviously isn't age-related. (I was so terrified she'd find this book that I returned it to the bookstore.) Nor do I think that men are somehow dumping "accomplished" women in droves. In my professional life as a public interest lawyer, I knew few men who were not married to women who were at least their intellectual equals. Some of them, it's true, did have difficulties having children and careers simultaneously, along with their wives. Was it that they and their spouses "put themselves first?" No--it's a much simpler reason, and as a former economist, Hewlett is a fool for not mentioning it: It's the economy. While the "simple living" movement made a nice dent in this, the fact is that materialistic tomes emnating from places like Manhattan make it difficult for couples to survive on one income. At one point Hewlett writes that she didn't have to "maximize her earnings" during the several cutting-edge infertility she went through at 51. Maximize? Uh, right.Read more ›
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