"But it’s possible that in amassing circles of women and giving them simple empowering tools, she’s putting the infrastructure and players in place for a much more ambitious trophy than a seat in the corporate boardroom. Getting women to the highest echelons of business might be her idea of getting them to the starting line. After the women get the power, well, then she can really let loose." - Time Magazine, "Confidence Woman" by Belinda Luscombe
My first problem - of many - is that before I had a chance to so much as Google Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, I had already made up my mind about the whole thing. I heaped my complaint onto that of a colleague along with a sigh and an eyeroll. I am sick of hearing about Sheryl Sandberg. It’s fantastic that she gets to leave work at 5:30 PM each day to enjoy time with her family. Absolutely wonderful that she is the COO of Facebook and that she’s turned the social media conglomerate into what it is today.
Many claps for her.
So when I saw that once again she was being mentioned my gut reaction was to dismiss her after saying a few words about how great it is for her to have that choice that millions of other women do not have. How difficult it must be for her to discuss how women should and could get ahead from a place of supreme privilege. And don’t get me started on why there never seem to be any women of color - and we have our own workplace issues and obstacles to deal with - in the picture. It seems like the same story time after time of the white lady telling the rest of us how it is really done. And, for real, I am over it.
And then I Googled. I read the piece in Time. I went to the site. I changed my mind.
Not entirely, of course, but my defenses went down and I was able to operate from a place of thoughtfulness and intelligence as opposed to annoyance bordering on anger.
I grew up in a single parent household. My mother worked until well after six each night. Sometimes she made dinner, sometimes dinner was Burger King. If we were sick we had to stay in the nurses office until she was available usually not until after four. I remember in middle school she had a herniated disc that required her to be home for six weeks. For six whole weeks I had my mother at home after school and that was all that mattered. It was glorious. She traveled a lot. Sometimes we joined her in Manhattan or Orlando. Other times we were left home. She worked hard to provide for us: I ended up taking expensive AP courses my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and then went to an expensive university in Washington, DC and then went abroad for six months. My brother went through college, law school and a year of watching Cash Cab on the couch while awaiting bar exam results. The point is that my mother wasn’t able to make the choices that Ms. Sandberg and other’s like her can make. She had to work because she had to support her children. She had to work so that one day her children would have options.
I have many options. I am a fortunate woman. I know that.
And despite my criticism towards the likes of upper middle class women who attempt to tell other women how to ‘do it all’, I must acknowledge the fashion in which Sheryl Sandberg is moving forward. And the movement she is attempting with LeanIn.org. As you know, I am a big proponent of women helping other women. I want to see women succeed. I want to see women be CEOs and be president of the United States. I want more women members of the House and of the Senate and I want for us to feel empowered not only to ‘lean in’ but to lean on one another. That is where Sandberg has it right; women need other women and our attitude towards ourselves and our positions force us to stay back. What Sheryl Sandberg advocates is to come together and learn from one another. The only way for women to get to the top is to do so together and, more importantly, to recognize the choices of others when doing so.
So, I can’t hate on her. I can’t even bring myself to sigh or roll my eyes. I can applaud her mission and suggest that she reminds others how fortunate so many women are and that we all are not equal but that is OK. But I can’t put her down or be angry or jealous. I can and am envious of her resources to start to get people to work together and share experiences. In fact- and here’s the surprise after my huffing and puffing this morning- Sheryl Sandberg makes me want to do the same.