Monday, April 1, 2013

More on "Leaning In"

 So I stayed up til half past midnight on Saturday night to finish "Leaning In." Yes, I know how to live it up on a Saturday night.

I really wanted to love it, and I did love a lot of it. I saw so much of my experience as a working woman reflected back to me. I saw the struggles and the highlights, both with Sandberg's experiences on the home front and at work. I practically nodded my head off in recognition of the truths there.

And I felt sad. I wanted to cry when I finished it. I thought that I was just tired, that I'd feel better in the morning, but it's been a few days since then and I'm not feeling much better. I'm sad because these situations just suck sometimes. It is *hard* being a working woman, and honestly, it's not that much easier to be a working man. If I've learned anything from The Having It All Project so far, it's that no one has it particularly easy managing all that they'd like to get out of life. And so I felt sad that it's not as simple as trusting my instincts and acting accordingly, that it's too complicated and that I can't just believe in good people to make the right decisions on my behalf.

I felt sad that I haven't encountered as many women as Sheryl Sandberg seems to in her career. For all of the male-domination of Silicon Valley, she had plenty of examples of women to draw upon, doing both the right and the wrong things. I don't interact with as many women in my role, especially within my own department, and even as a friend and I work to assemble a Lean In group of sorts for our own, neither of us seems to know that many women like me.

I felt sad that daycare is so expensive that it doesn't make financial sense for more women to work. I felt sad that daycare employees don't make very much money. I felt sad that "working mom" got redefined as "career-loving parent" when so many working friends aren't so in "love" with their particular careers. I felt sad that women had to be told that it's okay to feel a little dissatisfied and strive for something more despite how many choices are technically already open to us. And sad that I had to use the word "technically" in that last sentence.

I wanted to feel inspired, and I have to admit that I feel a bit defeated. The odds seem stacked higher than ever now. No wonder women haven't been able to achieve more, given all of the inherent biases we face. At 12:30 am on a Saturday night, it all seemed insurmountable.

But there's another angle I didn't consider in the still of the night. I don't really want to give up, and it's not really in my personality to just take things as they are. I'm not sure "leaning in" is the solution to everything, but it does shed light on a lot of important points. We do need more equality at home. We do need more people to realize that just because a woman is successful, it doesn't have to mean she's an aggressive bitch. And while it's not easy to talk about these changes, it's critical that we do so. I plan to keep discussing them here, and pushing the limits in my own career. Enough of the pity party. Who's with me?


  1. Sad is understandable, but mad be more effective. There are 23 million working mothers in the U.S. Isn't it time policies and workplace culture reflect that? Thanks Cheryl for the ongoing conversation.

  2. Yes, I think most of the time I do feel more mad than sad. Again, not the way I want to feel, but probably more productive!

  3. I just finished Lean In, too, and share your frustrations, Cheryl. Sheryl Sandberg does a great job outlining some of the issues working women face, but her solution sure isn't the end-all, be-all. I think Liz has it right that policies and cultural norms need to shift. Unfortunately I don't really see that happening. In fact, I think the opposite is happening as corporations compete with global competitors. (Would love to be proven wrong on that...) I also feel (maybe it's anecdotally) that the women Sandberg sees dropping out of the corporate workplace (the ones who can afford to choose) are putting their skills to work on different career tracks, e.g. part-time, freelance/contract, non-corporate etc.

  4. Thanks for your comment Alison. I completely agree that women may be focusing their talents elsewhere. I think it's a shame that smaller businesses don't have the same high profile that the Fortune 500 do, because I believe women are making a huge impact there.

  5. Thinking, thinking, thinking. I'd also like to add in my two cents about when one's salary doesn't even justify paying for child care, which is basically what happened to us, as nonprofit employees. We went for it anyway, because work makes us happy and we wanted to keep our skills sharp. I go back and forth between feeling defeated and excited by it all.

  6. I made the same decision to keep working through, when we had both kids in daycare at the same time (exactly the underlined quote in the book above). I think so much needs to be done around childcare quality and costs.

  7. Thank you for writing this. It echos how I feel!