There’s been a major hullabaloo for months over Sheryl Sandberg. She’s the 44 year old Facebook COO (Chief Operating Officer), and their first female board member, who is championing the cause of women. Well, she’s championing and blaming. Sort of. But not really.
This week, her recently-published, first book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” tops BOTH the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists. It’s being referred to as a manifesto for women.
Her accomplishments are so many, if I tried to list them all here, this post would take you a half hour to read. To give you just an inkling of her popularity I just tried, for twenty minutes, to link to Sheryl Sandberg on
Wikipedia and finally gave up. Here’s a few highlights:
- 1991, graduated, summa cum laude, with an A.B. in economics, from Harvard
- 1993, earned her M.B.A. with highest distinction, from Harvard
- former chief of staff for the United States Department of the Treasury
- ranked one of the 50 “Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune Magazine, since at least 2007
- 2011, ranked #5 on “the world’s 100 most powerful women” by Forbes
- 2012, named in Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world
- her Facebook stock options and restricted stock units are reputed to be worth $1.45 billion, as of mid-May 2012
- Oprah LOVES her. During a recent interview she gushed so much, it was beginning to make me queasy
Guess I’m a late bloomer. I’m just now getting on the bandwagon.
For some reason, I wasn’t sure I’d like her. As if she’d care. As if it matters. Weird for me to pass judgement without really knowing what someone is all about. But there you have it. So I have been ambivalent. I haven’t read the book. I haven’t read the interviews. And therefore, I didn’t really know where she was coming from.
Then Oprah interviewed her this past Sunday night. I decided to watch. And I’m glad I did (except for the aforementioned gushing).
She is far more likeable than I imagined she would be. She’s also far more ‘feminine’. Soft, even. Most important, to me was her honesty. She talked openly and unashamedly about the guilt she has when she drops her kids off at school, for example. She talked about the soul searching she’s had to do. And all the conversations she’s had with her herself, and her husband, about how they’d make their lives work; and the implications of those decisions.
But what I loved most was when she talked about her insistence on being home, every night at 6:30, to have dinner with her family.
That’s when she totally won me over.
Men do it all the time. And they’re never penalized for it. But women, that’s another story. A former head honcho colleague of mine had dinner with his wife and kids every single night. By 6:00 p.m. latest, he was gone, on his way home. Once the kids were asleep, he was happy to work all night. He was even willing to come back to the agency, which he did all the time. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, stopped him from sitting at his dinner table.
As it should be, I think.
So I respect Sandberg for making her family as much of a priority as her career. Although why we even have to discuss it pisses me off. It’s the double standard that bugs me.
Women are considered ‘incapable’ of running companies because we need time off to have babies. Because we sometimes have to take time off to meet with teachers, or go to medical appointments with kids. Because we want to have dinner with our families, and put our kids to bed.
Men do it all the time. During the course of my career I’ve had several men who worked for me, take parental leave. In Canada women are entitled to one year off. Once the mother is back at work, the father is entitled to six weeks parental leave. And more and more men are doing it. They want to bond with their babies as much as women do. Just look at all the dads posting pictures of their kids on Facebook. Look at all the dads out with their kids at the park, at the movies, in restaurants and stores. Men today are just as involved in bringing up the kids as their wives and partners are.
Doesn’t raise questions about their ability to run companies. Or sit on boards. Get promotions and stock options. And earn huge salaries.
Sandberg’s position is clear. She wants to know why, thirty years after 50% of college grads in the U.S. are women, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. So she’s putting it under the microscope. She’s looking at why we’re ‘stuck’. Why we’ve made so little, if any, progress. And she’s offering up some solutions.
She’s also challenging all of us, men and women alike, to challenge the “common workplace assumption that men still rule the world”. But not before we abandon the notion of “having it all”. Sandberg says it’s impossible. Not even she has it all.
I agree. What about you?