I wasn’t going to read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. To be quite honest I was expecting it to be full of “at a girl!” and “you can do whatever you put your mind to!” calls to arms, and life-management advice from a holier-than-thou female in the 1%. For weeks my Twitter feed has been filled with discussion about the book, pro and anti Lean In articles are written daily, and the book is all over the news which I’m addicted to – it seems that I can’t get away from it.
Now the last time I snatched up a book because it was generating so much publicity I ended up with 50 Shades of Shiterature. So surely you can understand my hesitation here.
I’ve been happily wrong. I’m about 100 pages into Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, but I think I fell in love with this book on page 7 where I read something completely honest: It is time for us to face the fact that our [feminist] revolution has stalled.
And then “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality”. Exactly.
We all can’t pretend things are equal when there are barely any females holding ground in the C-suite. The ground isn’t level between men and women when the U.S. Department of Labor acknowledges that women are making 0.78 to every $1.00 a man makes. And it’s not fair that women are ever in danger of losing their jobs when they choose to start families.
Why are these even realities in 2013? The fact is, these talking points have been on more lips than John Mayer. Songs. John Mayer songs. We’ve made significant progress in women’s rights, but course-correction in the boardroom crawls along at a snail’s pace. What gives? Study after study proves when women have a seat at the executive table companies increase their profit margins. Are men playing “No Girl’s Allowed” cards, or are we standing in our own way?
An article by Kim Siegal on Huffington Post titled “Lean In? No thanks. I’d Rather Lean On” reads like a display of literary temper tantrum. She’s kinda pissed because there are injustices that women face. Which is, like, exactly what every feminist/women’s lib/modern woman is saying, sooo…. Oh and also she’s mad because Sandberg said women should “lean in” to their goals/ambitions instead of “lean on” flexible work schedules, case-by-case paid maternity leave, breastfeeding accommodations, and affordable quality childcare.
Siegel should know, upon reading the book, that she’s in line with what Sandberg is saying. The only difference is that Sandberg is helping women make peace with a choice that so many of us struggle with: working while raising a family. And because this is such a personal issue I was just going to let this article go until my eyes saw Siegel write “the idea that we should ‘try harder’ as women to break down glass ceilings or balance a career and family is clearly what’s rankling”.
And then I was all – oh hell no, did she just say that raising a family while chasing your dreams, or striving to forge new frontiers for womankind is rankling? Would she say that to Amelia Earhart, Hilary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Annie Oakley, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Sandra Day O’Connor, Madeline Albright, Oprah Winfrey, et al? Surely she doesn’t think that barrier-busting ladies are synonymous with persistent resentment or continued, festering pain? Right?
According to Siegel, ”…balancing work and family and relationships is often a zero-sum game. It’s a big mushy ball of meals to cook, bills to pay, dishes to clean and children raise into people you hope will not be psychopaths”. Damn, girl!
So there it is. Sandberg is right. We’ve stalled. And we should get pissed off to read that, because when we get mad we make changes. Here’s a woman in the 1% who just wrote a book with some real talk about the work/life fight women face, offering up some serious advice and the kind of insight the 99% of us would never get otherwise – and there are those among us saying: No. “No” they say, “it’s not about leaning in to do the work that shapes your world, it’s about leaning on things that should be there, but aren’t. Yet. Because someone else should lean in and create the things we can lean on.” (Inception?)
We’ve stalled so hard as a movement that if we were the engine we would be yelling at the proverbial Sandberg tires to stop trying to push us forward, because dammit! we should be there already.
Breaking glass ceilings is more than just “an idea” – there’s literal WORK TO BE DONE. Ladies, it’s a man’s world out there in the C-suite and we’ve got to rally and yell and stomp (otherwise known as LEANING IN) until the balance is righted. And BTW – men would be wise to listen up as well, because the real opportunity here is that we overhaul an archaic working system so it looks more like something that fits today’s hyper-connected, always “on” worker. Let’s all stop trying to fit into a solution that we used decades ago, when the entire scenario has changed.
Whatever your take, there’s valuable advice that applies to us all: show up 100% at whatever life choices you’ve made. And if you hate them, change them. Because whatever role you play in this life should be one that’s worth leaning into.
Learn more about the Lean In book, movement, and author.