Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hey Lady, Lean In To Your Own Life

Time magazine suggests in its March 18th 2013 issue that I should not hate Sheryl Sandberg because she's successful. If Time had any sense at all it would stop using 'hate' as a provocation, since I think we've got quite enough of that in the world and it never seems to serve a good purpose. Also, with this admonition, Time seems to conjure up a false scenario that I believe is infused in the entire cover story - at the same time that it portends to encourage women to stand up for themselves and believe in themselves, the editors suggest on the cover that we're still sitting in catty sewing circles, whispering nasty nothings to one another about a neighbor with a new dress.

I don't hate Ms. Sandberg. Why would I? From all accounts, she seems awesome and having no evidence to support a counter claim, I'll take that at face value.

However, some of the things she's saying in her one-woman show to re-boot feminism (a task assigned to her by Time, not necessarily something she's suggesting) offend me. I'll start with this: "My argument is that getting rid of these internal barriers is critical to gaining power." This, in response to the idea that fewer women aspire to senior positions as opposed to their male counterparts and that women have an 'ambition gap'.

I won't say that isn't true for many women. I'm sure it is. But the overarching idea in this cover piece is that her version of success is the one that all of us should pursue. Or at least more of us.


I call BS. Especially since Sandberg, herself, says "Ironically, having written a book about women and leadership, having, like the top leadership role is not the most important thing to me. I could have done that on the way out of Google. I had those offers."

Uh. What?

Amidst all the finger-pointing in this article concerning who's to blame for women not pursuing and achieving more senior-level success, up to and including Sandberg's point directly at women themselves, did anyone else notice that the author of this idea that women are to blame for their own stagnation is, herself, choosing less than what she could get?

Well, guess what. I choose that every day, ladies, and I'm fine with it. Very. I think a lot of people would suggest that I could do something else with my time. I sure could. I might be a million other things. But what people fail to understand about 'equality' is that it's supposed to be about opportunity, about choices. Ms. Sandberg truly believes that professional, successful women are not pursuing in greater numbers positions of power because they have some internal deficit counter that tells them they can't do it, it's not for them, they shouldn't even try.

But what if we actually have reached a greater gender equilibrium and women are exercising their choices? Don't like that answer? What if it's true? What if the more sinister of the possibilities is the reality: women don't want more positions of power. Maybe they're pursuing power in places where you're not acknowledging them.

More women aren't heads of state? More women aren't CEOs? More women aren't at the highest levels of ever organization and every policy-making body? Maybe, like me, many women ~ the majority of women ~ choose something else. They aren't telling themselves they can't. They are telling themselves they could do whatever they want - and they do that.

I don't value 'power' as much as I value 'home'. I don't value application of EQ (emotional quotient) in the workplace as much as I value it at the dinner table. I don't want to have to deflect questions about my domestic help or my childcare choices because "it's not a question you would ask a man".  I'll answer you head-on: I clean my house the best I can and I try to teach my kids, including my son, to do the same. And I take care of my own children, with a little help once in a while from family and friends. My husband would answer the same way.

That is my wealth. That is my power. I am at the top of my game. Nobody's bigger than me in my arena and not one of the people I care about would challenge that.

I'm glad for Ms. Sandberg and all the other women who get to pursue their dreams of success and senior-level authority in the areas where they want to be noticed. Ms. Sandberg needs to open up her realm of possibilities to include the idea that I am a woman of power and stature in the areas where I choose to be successful. Acceptance of that - by women - would be a real step forward - for women.

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