Does the Lean In movement need to be redefined?
On May 8, 2016 a CBS News headline reads, “Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg admits parts of “Lean In” are wrong.” Did Sheryl Sandberg have it wrong?
As a working mother, I wanted to celebrate at first. After all, I never felt she faced the same challenges and frustrations that I and my colleagues do on a regular basis. Who was she to tell me that leaning in was what I should do?
Then, I thought about the situation that brought her to this realization. My heart breaks for her and her family. I pray that she finds peace and strength.
While I do hope that her new realization about the difficulties that single working mother’s face will result in policy and cultural changes, I still think she misses the entire picture. All working mothers need our support and assistance.
“I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home,” Sandberg wrote. So in the end, did Sheryl Sandberg have it wrong?
She said it best in that quote. It is hard to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home. Then, you face gender bias when you do try to climb the ladder. How are women expected to lean in with the odds weighing against them?
Here is an example of a particularly difficult day trying to lean in. My son was up sick all night. He could not go to day care running a fever, so I had to find someone to stay with him while I ran to work for a presentation I had to give. Just when I thought everything was going to be okay, I discovered the water was shut off. I had no way to take a shower.
I was standing at the water department to give them a check the minute they opened. I begged for a technician to turn my water back on first thing. I guess my desperation worked because I practically followed the guy to my house. I took a shower, recited my presentation, and headed to work. I thanked my manager for understanding that I was running late and would need to leave as soon as the meeting was concluded because of my son being ill.
As the meeting started, I was asked to take minutes. Then, during the break I was asked to refresh the drinks and ice. I did both without any push back, but wondered why I was asked to do this when I was not the most junior person in the room by any means. I was however, the only female. Finally, my time came to present.
I admit I was nervous since the room was full of executives and managers. I knew this presentation could make a great impression and give my career a boost. I rocked it! I was on cloud nine as I fielded questions. At the conclusion of the meeting my manager said, “Good job. Maybe someday you can run a meeting.” I did not say anything as he walked away.
I was his lead. I was the person on his team ensuring that all metrics were exceeded. I went above and beyond to make him look good thinking it would result in him being an advocate for me. Instead, he could only state that maybe someday I could run a meeting.
I wanted to scream! I ran team meetings every week. I left work focused once again on my son who was home sick waiting for my return. As I watched a cartoon with my son’s head in my lap, I ran my fingers through his hair wondering why I ever have to leave him for work. Then, I remember that I am the one who has to pay the bills.
Did Sheryl ever have a day like that? Was she ever unemployed and homeless with family to worry about? Did she ever have to contemplate asking her parents cap in hand to allow her as an adult to move back in, just for a while, so that she can get her feet back under her? I doubt it. I have. This doesn’t make me a failure, but it does mean that Sheryl didn’t have to fight the same struggle.
What do you think? Does Sheryl represent you and your life? Did Sheryl Sandburg have it wrong in the end?