Sandberg claims Lean In is “sort of” a feminist manifesto. For me, it was simply a powerful woman’s tale of getting to the top. My amoebic blob of a career, very much in its infancy, appreciated the nuggets of wisdom shared. Finishing the last page, I thought: This is a book every young woman needs. – Gen-Y Responds to Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” [Fortune]
THE INTERVIEW with Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg comes at a perfect moment. What she says talking to Norah O’Donnell, which will air on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, is absolutely correct.
O’Donnell described Sandberg’s Lean In as a “sort of feminism 2.0 moment.” She added, “I think Sheryl is delivering a pretty blunt message that is, ‘The revolution has stalled.’ And that’s a message I don’t think people want to hear … I think her take is that it’s not just sexism anymore. It’s an ambition gap when it comes to women who want to lead. And I think that’s a really profound argument.”
O’Donnell mentioned research that Sandberg discusses as well — that women have been getting more college degrees than men for 30 years, but make up just barely over 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
When you think about Ann-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic it goes to the heart of what Sandberg is talking about, but also brings up more. Slaughter had it all, her dream job, and a husband who supported her choice, too, which not all women have, but wanted to be at home once she got to the top. She had every right to change her mind. But her huge blunder was thinking it was a global message about women, instead of just a story about her. [Slaughter's review of Sandberg's book.]
It’s why Sandberg speaking out is important, even if people don’t agree. This is a conversation about women having more power in our country in places that matter, changing the economic reality for women in the process, which has the potential of exploding America’s potential exponentially. At the heart of Sandberg’s message is exactly what’s needed. It requires women stepping up, doing what needs to be done so we can continue the progress begun, but hardly finished.
From the interview teaser on CBS:
She says despite women earning more college degrees than men, they still only occupy 14 percent of America’s top corporate jobs, a percentage relatively unchanged for 10 years. What’s causing it? Sandberg says it’s women themselves who don’t think they can do it all.
“So they start quietly leaning back. They say ‘Oh, I’m busy. I want to have a child one day. I couldn’t possibly…take on more.’ Or ‘I’m still learning on my current job.’ I’ve never had a man say that stuff to me,” says Sandberg. It’s this attitude that has kept women from getting past that 14 percent she says.
Pressed by O’Donnell that she sounds like she’s blaming women, Sandberg replies, “My message is not one of blaming women. There is an awful lot we don’t control,” she tells O’Donnell. “There is an awful lot we can control and we can do for ourselves to sit at more tables, raise more hands.”
The other point Sandberg makes is one I’ve stressed before when talking about relationships. It’s that for women to reach our full potential we must have a life partner who supports our goals and is willing to put that belief into action by being a fifty-fifty partner in domestic chores. People discount the domestic side of the equation, but it’s very real. This includes child-rearing, but also grocery shopping, housecleaning and the basic grunt work of domestic life.
What’s usually not brought into the equation is the traditional aspect of relationships continually promoted in our culture and politics, especially on the American right. The philosophy that continues to promote that males are the head of household, even when women are bringing in half the money. The theory goes, men being men they should not be expected to pitch in, because they are the providers; men can’t change to welcome and accept women leading, because they’re men. The traditional role playing that the American right continues to promote is counterproductive to women navigating in the modern era and moving to a full leadership position in their work life, and that’s their goal.
This traditional cultural narrative is also what continues to block women from getting equal pay. Large sections of American culture still haven’t accepted women as co-equal breadwinners of the family, even when they have that role. It’s hurting families, as well as women.
When it comes to leading roles for women in our major industries and corporations, including media, women still aren’t at the top. As Norah O’Donnell points out in the Huffington Post article, no major news organization is headed by a female. NBC News president Steve Capus announced he was leaving the network, but a replacement has not been announced.
Sheryl Sandberg talking about women leaning in is the perfect antidote to the worn out question of whether we can have it all or not. We have to want it, understand it’s our responsibility to step up and take leadership for ourselves when the opportunity arises or we can make one for ourselves, but also not throw it back when we’ve achieved it. There’s too much at stake and it’s going to require all of us working very hard to keep women’s progress going.
Feminism was a revolution and it has indeed stalled. The leadership and economic chapter is yet to be written and it’s time to get it done.
“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world.” – Sheryl Sandberg
You can pre-order Lean In at the bookseller of your choice, which will be published on March 11.