Monday, March 18, 2013

are you leaning in?

women can have it all...

I am on the fence about Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg's new "revolution" for working women that she is calling, Lean In, which is also the title of her book. Now let me preface this post by saying I  was deeply moved and inspired in 2010 when I saw Ms. Sandberg's TED talk, "Why we have too few women leaders". Take a few minutes of your time to watch this - you won't be sorry!

The overarching message behind her new "lean in" message is that there isn't an equal voice for women  int he workplace or on a world stage, and that aren't enough women at the top in corporate America. I am fully on board with that piece of her revolution. Heck, I work in a place where there is only one woman in a director-level position in the entire organization. If that doesn't tell you you are living in a man's world, I don't know what does. Yes...I am serious. However, a portion of Ms. Sandberg's message is just not relatable or realistic for me. She says women can have it all at home and in the boardroom. In my experience, it's not possible to have a perfectly balanced, successful career and harmonious home life. Each day, we make decisions for our families that impact the direction of our career paths and vice-versa.

Unlike Ms. Sandberg, not all of us have the luxury to be able to pay someone (or a few people) to handle the responsibilities of doing the family laundry, scrubbing the toilets or picking-up the kids from school while we conquer the boardroom and climb our way to the top of a publicly traded empire.

Sandberg preaches that you must have a supportive partner behind you, and with whom you can share personal responsibilities with. Let's be real, when was the last time she had an argument with her technology-mogle husband about his lack of interest in helping with the mountains of laundry? (Side note: Ms. Sandberg is married to SurveyMonkey CEO, David Goldberg.) Riddle me that piece of this puzzle, because I'm pretty sure I've skipped going above and beyond at work a time or two because of responsibilities at home, and I have a partner with whom I share personal responsibilities with, and no kids to speak of.

women still can't have it all...

As I was contemplating this message (aka chewing Mr. S's ear) and researching more into this idea of "leaning in," I came upon an article by Princeton professor and former top State Department official, Anne-Marie SlaughterWhy Women Still Can't Have It All, and a very different take on the "lean in" revolution and message.

Ms. Slaughter attributes our society for the acceptable imbalance between the sexes and our roles at home & in the workplace. She left her role at the State Department after her term to be with her family, whom she realized she was not engaged with, despite the fact that her husband was at home and encouraging her career.

Ms. Slaughter makes a point to say that there has to be better role models and social norms that speak to the idea of having balance and flexibility to be our best at home and at work. But is that possible with such engrained social norms and high-powered women like Sheryl Sandberg telling women that we can do better?


I've also read other articles speaking to both Ms. Sandberg and Ms. Slaughter's points, The Backlash Against Sheryl Sandberg is Already Starting and A Titan's How-To on Breaking the Glass Ceiling; and watched Ms. Sandberg's most recent interview on 60 Minutes that brought a more human face to her message. Each of these view points still leave me feeling like I can't quite commit to one side or another. That's what healthy, open discussion is supposed to do, make us question each viewpoint to come to our own conclusions, right? Whelp, ya got me stumped.

While I'm inspired by Ms. Sandberg, I'm not "leaning in" quite yet. I just started her book, and will be reporting back to you on my thoughts and where I find myself once I get a more comprehensive look at her viewpoint in print.

But, I'd also like some insight from you all - What are you initial impressions of this new Lean In revolution? (I feel like I've done a lot of talking here lately...) Do you believe that our generation of women can shift the gender demographic in the boardroom? Have you given thought to making plans to leave the workforce for your family?

Am I the only one questing my career, my family and my idea of how they fit together?

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