Or perhaps she can use the proceeds from this rag to get a facelift, a boob job because it sure looks like the years at the top are taking their toll and her looks are all she’s going to have left. As if Marissa Mayer’s banning telecommuting at Yahoo wasn’t bad enough, here comes another woman on the warpath attacking the work amenities of the modern age with her new book Lean In oozing controversy before it even hits store shelves. Her tips for closing the so called female achievement gap include lean in not lean back, not saying when someone suggests they take a job that “you’re still learning in your current one, to mirror men and be the first one to ask for that next job, promotion not to leave your job before you leave it by worrying about responsibilities you don’t even have yet in terms of family and children. While giving us pointers on raising our daughters to be more assertive, pushing grown women now to be the same, to exude more confidence, not to doubt ourselves, pointers on dating and choosing a husband, listeners seem to be confused about who maintains the 1950’s mentality women like Mayer and Sandberg with their antiquated perspectives or the women, media attacking them for their business choices, great book and powerful things they’ve done at companies vs. male CEO’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Some people are of the opinion we should be building these women up not tearing them down because they are shining examples of powerful women having made it, the latter trying to empower other women, but the larger question has to be which women is Sandberg empowering, if she is empowering them at all, do her tips really provide a blueprint for women looking to get ahead in the corporate world or are her guidelines pushing every one of us backwards?
More than communicating to our daughters, our young women they can do anything boys can do, an emphasis on self-esteem and assertiveness, a directive to stop calling girls bossy who stand up for themselves, go after what they want, endeavor to compete in a male dominated world is the realization we have fewer people in high powered, high paying jobs period, forget CEO, because there is no one at the top who has time to mentor or guide anyone. We have an increasing number of people in minimum wage, middle wage $8-10 an hour jobs as administrative assistants because the formula to get retail, fast food and clerical jobs is widely, publicly known and follows easy steps in filling out an application, creating a résumé simply done from a template, dressing appropriately, competently answering interview questions; establishing a career is a totally different experience. However, when young people looking to explore their chosen field, find out how the best in the business, the local in the business got there, said individuals are so overworked, overwhelmed by the litany of job tasks they don’t have time to answer a few basic questions or are so fearful of the next generation coming for their job they won’t, facts that transcend gender. Starting an occupation, a career vs. just getting a job today revolves around the internship, real work experience college and trade school students can obtain in a world where internships, apprenticeships are going the way of the dodo, job training is nearly extinct and no one is telling young people how to get into any career field whether that’s CEO or an architect. We have fewer CEO’s in the workplace, male or female, regardless of gender, because there is no one to nurture persons who show talent, who even might want to become a CEO someday; until we start disseminating formulas talented young people can follow, get people in desired fields to give up and comings the time of day and solid advice beyond that, no one will get to the top. Girls, young women don’t need to be told what they can do they need to be told ways they can do it.
Truth is there are a lot of things keeping women from the boardroom, that corner office and those 3 important letters behind their name; Sandberg is far too quick to dismiss bad public policies and social pressures as a larger part of the dynamic “holding women back;” that it took until 2012 and the Lily Ledbetter Act to better ensure equal pay for equal work is appalling. Appalling is also one word to describe the partridge in a pear tree of reasons employers give for firing employees engaging in legal activities done on personal time, what kind of tie you wear to work, participation in a swim suite contest, rock band, morals clauses not for religious based entities but anyone who wants to tack one onto a contract, getting away with any excuse not to hire otherwise qualified persons for a job other than they have ovaries and could become a mother, their credit score, supposedly a distraction, is not something I want at my company and they just get more ridiculous from there. Never mentioned by her but recurring over and over, lighting up the comment sections on stories detailing and analyzing her theories, perceptions, were what about women who have done the leaning in, really worked twice as hard at their job than their male and often white counterparts yet haven’t gotten to the top, who are repeatedly exposed to workplace bullying, discrimination? Adjacently criticized is this concept all corporations’ command structures are built like those of tech giants Google and Facebook which they are not; depending on industry, region of the country where you live and work, your top management may be much more steeped in tradition. Bringing us to related scrutiny beyond the knee jerk, who the hell do you think you are to tell me what I want; Fox News’ Megyn Kelly hosted a panel of women who brought up issues not just surrounding household and childrearing duties women take the bulk of but where and how most deals are made on the golf course for example, where women never go, or out for drinks which can be misinterpreted if not by your male boss, who may mistake it for flirtation or a move on their marriage, their spouse may view it as such. By that same token is the perception all this “leaning in” is likely to give your boss when you go from good employee to acting differently, always chopping at the bit for the next job, eager for that next promotion or trying to negotiate a raise could be the fastest track to the unemployment line rather than the boardroom, because it is seen as erratic, out of character, a signal you want to begin a family and therefore will contribute less to the company.
It is not self-sabotage, “leaving before you leave” to think about the family you might want to have someday and try to figure out how to meet both personal and career goals before your kids have to suffer for your lack of planning; an hour in the morning putting your little one on the school bus is the 3-4 hours you don’t have to spend with your teen at their court appearance, capitalizing the importance of things like telecommuting, flex time. With the advent of fertility treatments women themselves seem to have forgotten their biological clock is not a myth and that it’s shorter than men’s; while a man can easily father a child into his 50’s or 60’s, sometimes 70’s Dr. Oz encourages women, if they haven’t already thought about having children, to have that conversation with their partner, their doctor somewhere between 32-35 to avoid the need for too often painful, definitely expensive and sadly ineffective fertility treatments. Similarly this woman’s advice on dating may go over well in church on Sundays, may be the delight of the conservative, family values set, yet is most certainly a page right out of the 1950’s suggesting young women date the crazy boy, the commitment phobic but when it comes time to choose a partner, a husband choose the one who’s going to change half the diapers. Continuing, what’s sexy when you’re older, as a wife is a man who will do the laundry. First off dating in the 80’s and 90’s, when Sandberg was in her teens and 20’s, often included sex; it is now almost a given, if not a requirement, in the majority of relationships 13 years into the 21sr century. And sex can lead to pregnancy; pregnancy in a less than ideal relationship routinely leads to single parenthood changing priorities drastically. Meaning you have to go home at 5:00 to relieve a babysitter, pick up the child at daycare, take care of them once they are home ruling out 50, 60, 80 hour work weeks in your quest to be CEO. Further women doing it all today were quick to slam this concept men don’t do laundry, don’t change diapers; still expecting, demanding a 50/50 split is like expecting utopia to exist. And whether we ever reach it, women raising children now have to deal with what is. Frankly parents everywhere should be more concerned with what schools are teaching if her 7 year old son came to her and asked if women were allowed to be president than with the drivel she’s writing.
An idiot is what you call the guy who had a few too many at lunch and is careening down a highway with his teenage daughter in the car forcing her to call 911, an idiot is what you call the woman who coerced her son into blowing into the breathalyzer attached to the ignition of her car, who helplessly called 911 because he didn’t want to do it anymore. Idiot describes the two parents who put their children in the dryer and turned it on as punishment, or may hap individuals who believe this woman’s dating tips, not people who won’t get on this undefined career rocket ship going god only knows where, no matter what well known person advised them to do so. Usually no one goes from 22-26 year old college graduate holding either a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a PHD directly to CEO; jobs you hold in the meantime serve a variety of purposes outside advancing your career. You being that just graduated college student may be more concerned about your student loans, you may be caring for an aging parent, especially as a woman, you may be more interested in purchasing a home at 29-32 so it is paid off before you hit your 70’s. Following that train of thought, here is why women are increasingly likely to shy away from a promotion, a change in jobs because they know they can’t tackle it and the responsibilities on their plate right now, whether that’s theirs or their spouses aging parent, financial difficulties, their children, desiring the opportunity to date, to enjoy life, to find that special someone before having to think about 60-80 hour work weeks. The key words there being right now, and because the woman was genuinely surprised by the suggestion or knows there is no feasible way to do what is asked, but she doesn’t want to lose her current job, she treats it like a job interview question and gives a passable response. Too there is the possibility she is still learning in her current job, unlike men who, never say that, would prefer to be competent in her existing job before taking on another, keeping in mind men also “never” ask for directions when lost on the road, “never” read directions when putting together anything from a book shelf to a child’s tricycle and are known to begin simple home improvement projects often turning your home into a construction zone. Sure we want more of that in the workplace.
Think like a man, act like a man isn’t solid advice to ensure women get farther ahead; people aren’t holding these women up, are outraged by their comments precisely because they are a throwback to the 1950’s; how can you be CEO of a tech company in the 21st century and put a blanket ban on telecommuting? How can you write a book, go on the talk show circuit, telling women to be more involved, work harder when they are treading water with the responsibilities they already have as it is; not only that, this book is not just pointers on getting ahead, cracking the code of how to get to the top, it is a chastisement of women not just who aren’t CEO’s but those who didn’t do, don’t want to do it, her way. Being appreciated and well liked is part of how women maneuver in the world- not attributes to be shunned; here Ms. Sandberg contradicts herself in one moment listing these as problems over being assertive then in another lists part of the reason we don’t have a woman president as, “because you must be liked to be president and women at the top aren’t well liked.” Then again there is why they are vilified so vehemently; female bosses are seen as micromanaging, asexual nightmares, aggressive mentally unstable disasters for the workplace who have commenters praying the glass ceiling stays where it is. Onlookers point horrible female bosses’ a-la The Devil Wears Prada blaming such personalities on this push for women to be one of the guys when fitting into the workplace, reaching the top. At first glance all of said opinions, observations may seem sexist and chauvinistic, but again look at what female bosses are doing. Marissa Mayer was at Yahoo 7 months before banning telecommuting while simultaneously having a nursery added to her office, instead of looking at how many families there were at Yahoo and remotely contemplating putting in an onsite daycare. Sheryl Sandberg’s combined 12 years at Google and Facebook generated a book selling what one story commenter called fantasy and guilt; the fantasy A- her life is so grand and glamorous, B- you can obtain her life if you lean in more, work harder, erasing all femininity to compete with men for leadership jobs, combined with the guilt heaped on parents, mother and father, who more than have to raise their children, who want to, whose personal time after work is thus spent picking up kids, helping with homework, making dinners, loading laundry, picking up toys and falling into bed at 11:00 pm to do it all again tomorrow. No time for leaning in, no time for thinking about career moves other than keeping their job in order to keep the bills paid. Worse still is the advice to take these strategic points into all parts of your life highlighting one instance where a mother was displeased with her child’s teacher, assertively demanding a better teacher from the school and got them; however we’ve seen assertiveness and strong personalities go awry. When the nasty split between Jon and Kate Gosselin was made public a fair number of people’s reactions consisted of feelings along the lines of I would have divorced that too after watching her treating her husband like an imbecile yelling, screaming, barking orders, being anything but loving. Translating that into the workplace, no one wants a boss who is never satisfied with their work, never appreciates the extra mile you go to, never has a decent thing to say about you, never notices you exist until something is wrong.
Many say Lean In is tone deaf to issues actually affecting women today chiefly economic ones; a woman may not take a job promotion because it means leaving her current company and her health benefits are better than those offered at her husband’s job, it may require uprooting her children from a good school, leaving their home which is their slice of the American dream, may entail going to a state, city with significantly higher costs of living. Moving away from the mommy track, you, male or female may be in your current job for the health benefits that pay for you to see a doctor to treat your rare medical condition, to make the medication you take more affordable, your existing job may offer dental insurance not guaranteed elsewhere. Yet here is a hardly argued elitist women on Good Morning America saying in the last 10 years the feminist movement, female progress in the workplace has stalled statements completely tone deaf to the fact we, as a nation, have spent the last 6 of those 10 years in a recession and weak economic recovery that stilted, stalled everyone’s ambitions; suddenly the goal is to get and keep a job, hang on to a mortgage, not climb a career ladder. Likewise it is tone deaf to the beating Wall-Street and corporate America took over the last half dozen years, making it the last thing anyone wants a part of. It is entirely ignorant of young people back on their parents couches to handle student loan debt, college graduates who are delaying everything from marriage to home buying to something as basic as buying a car, because of that debt. Adolescents, high school and college students having weathered these years are above everything else looking for stability; they want reasonable assurance their job is going to be there, they can get by, survive economic hard times more than they care about prestigious jobs, corner offices. Sandberg’s book is utterly out of touch with what young people say they want to do in terms of a career, occupation top goal to help people; the reasoning behind taking jobs as home heath aids, nurses, working in community centers, as teachers, because they believe in giving back not just enhancing the size of their paychecks, being able to brag about their job title. Returning to recession and post-recession America, the recovery was soon dubbed a “he-covery” owing to the fact hiring managers, HR staff were giving jobs disproportionately to men because they saw them as the providers for families, whether they were supporting one or not, mindsets that need to change before we will ever see more women in additional leadership positions.
Few have spared shining a spotlight on how Lean In’s author where she is the affluence, connections and networking she was born into, exposed to by chance that is not available to all people in addition to who and what she was able to marry into only adding to her wealth and possibilities. Others point to things like where she works pegging Facebook as an entity to zap the intelligence of the masses, not missing potential competency problems in her job considering Facebook’s disastrous IPO. Still more people looked at her 60 Minutes interview and pounced on the fact she didn’t do her own contract negotiating when joining Facebook that her husband had to tell her she should negotiate her contract as opposed to blindly accepting the first offer because she really wanted the job. But the biggest problem with Sheryl Sandberg isn’t the affluence she was put in the path of, isn’t those she had the good fortune to impress who were in turn willing to take her under their wing, take her along for the ride, though viewers were quick to identify that as one of the keys to her success and here is where being appreciated and well liked will help you get the attention of the right people. The biggest problem with Sheryl Sandberg is she hasn’t managed to learn, apply her own lessons; she’s not written the book as someone who went through an experience and overcame it. Nor is this a scenario where you need to take the AA approach and fight it daily, except perhaps for Sandberg herself as evidenced by her 60 Minutes interview. She’s writing a book full of lessons she herself cannot follow which at best makes her a hypocrite and at worst an extremely bad example. Mere seconds into aforementioned interview she describes these women she wants to help with her book as attributing their success to luck and help from others as men will attribute it to their core skills; when asked about her success she describes herself the same way then acts shy and insecure when called on it. She relates her experience in high school being voted most likely to succeed and hating it because she believed boys wouldn’t like her, she wouldn’t get invited to prom; expounding on that she stated women are taught to downplay their success at an early age. Added to her comments about peoples use of the word bossy in describing the demeanor of girls showing leadership skills and it completes the feeling her experiences, her mindsets were/are locked in a time warp only relevant to tea party conservatives, and areas of the deep south, Appalachia stereotypically known for not being able to spell CEO never mind recognize it as a career goal.
Yes we do need more women leaders, women leaders who understand what makes a people friendly workplace not just a family friendly one; we need more leaders, male or female who will fight for sound public policies to reign in arbitrary, capricious hiring and firing practices leaving qualified, talented individuals out in the cold independent of sex. We need a culture shift where those charged with hiring workers begin to understand women may be the sole providers for families too and not just through the character flaw of irresponsibility, bad relationship choices rather by virtue of what career field she’s in vs. her husband, partner, she may be a single parent due to an accident, health crisis turned deadly, married to a military man who died. We need business leaders, particularly women, who will gear their work environments to the workers of today who work to live, not live to work; they need to put back basics like sick and vacation time commiserate with number of years at the company so that if a person gets sick they don’t bring their germs to work fearing their job if they don’t. Obama care will close the insurance gap for woman but to complete things maternity leave must be a mandatory part of benefits packages available to either parent who wants to take it. If it makes more sense for dad to take that leave because his job pays less he can; if mom wants that time to bond with her child she has it or the option for both parents to split the traditional maternity leave. Woman at the top especially cannot afford to discount the positives of telecommuting, where appropriate, and flex time anything that allows workers the freedom of where and how to complete their work while managing other aspects of their life. Women need to bring their unique perspectives, gifts and talents into whatever job they hold, and when they get to the top they need to focus doing it their unique way that plays to their strengths serving the needs of their company, not doing it like a man, not following every tradition for the sake of “this is what it takes to be a CEO.” Imagine if Marissa Mayer had come into Yahoo and refined the telecommuting policy and process, replaced it with or added flex time that gave people the option to work where and how they were the most efficient and effective. Imagine if Lean In spent its pages speaking to the need for public policy change, the need for a cultural reinvigoration where we understand the motivations behind people’s choices not just women’s; where equal employment opportunities were given without cultural stereotypes regarding who’s raising a family or not, which parent should be providing and so forth. Imagine if Lean In were a true guide for women all to navigate the workplace, to navigate those difficult places in life rather than battle their own nonexistent demons. Imagine if there were real tools and strategies for dealing with gender based discrimination, gender based workplace bullying, favoritism based on the old boys club, typical white male cronyism; then and only then would it be something worth reading.