Sandberg: The Final Chapters

sandbergAlright, folks, chapter 9 through 12, the end of the Sandbergian road! If you missed it, here are rounds one and two of my discussion of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and here’s my bit from the radio.

Before I recap some of the big ideas of the last third, it’s probably worth summing up my feelings on this book. They go something like this: Skeptical, but read it anyway. Old news, new language. Big ideas, pithy terms. Fix the system, beat the system at the same time. Dudes, this is for you too. Hoorah!

So what did we learn in the last chapters? Stuff like…

Setting limits = longterm success – While burning yourself out in the short term may earn you quick kudos, you’re setting yourself up for a fall in the long run. If you crash and take your exhaustion to your boss, the last thing you want your boss to say is “Well, why didn’t you take your vacation days?” Self care is step one in being a productive member of any team.

“Intensive mothering” is a new phenomenon – The last few decades have seen the perceived importance of spending large amounts of time with your children culturally elevated to the point of imperative. A “good” mother is always around, 100% focused on the needs of her kids 100% of the time. This all-consuming standard is socially created; parenting has not always been this way and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Keeping guilt-free time for yourself and your work is setting a good example for your kids; you’re teaching them about balance.

Whoever has the power takes the noun – This is a Gloria Steinem adage that Sandberg borrows to talk about being labeled the “female” COO. The reverse would be someone referring to a “male nurse;” “nurse” is assumed female and “COO” is assumed male. Many women don’t want to be the female XYZ because “no one wants their achievements modified.”

“Is this your thing now?” – If you start speaking up about an issue (gender, racism, homophobia, whatever it may be), suddenly that’s your “thing.” While quietly fitting in may still be the safest path (and in past worlds may have been the only safe path), it’s not a strategy that bodes well for the gender as a whole. So yeah… it’s one of my many “things,” got a problem?

The Bias Blind Spot – If you are overconfident in your own powers of objectivity, you can fail to correct for your biases. And we all have biases. Studies show that people who believe themselves to be the most impartial actually exhibited more bias in hiring and promotion.

Benevolent Sexism (aka Nice Guy Misogyny) – Men who hold positive but outdated views of women tend to view women in the workplace less favorably, promote fewer women, and think that companies with high percentages of women run less smoothly. Benevolent sexism often manifests in admiring but reductionist comments about women, i.e. “Women are good at nurturing, that’s just what they’re best at.” These comments, while technically positive, will ultimately lead to the discrediting, consciously or subconsciously, of female accomplishments that don’t fit a traditional gender model.

Raise the ceiling, raise the floor – While Sandberg’s advice is mostly targeted at professional women on a particular career path, her point is that women in power (in business, in policy, in everything) will lead to better conditions for women everywhere. Forty % of working mothers don’t have any sick leave at all. Families with no paid leave can go into debt taking care of sick kids or elderly parents. Basically, working conditions suck, and diversifying the pool of leaders who form those decisions can only mean good things for everyone.

So there’s that. Hey readers, did anyone think I missed anything big?

Related Post: You get no points if you don’t do the work: women in tech

Related Post: Sex talk in the modern workplace

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1 Comment

Filed under Books, Gender

One response to “Sandberg: The Final Chapters

  1. I thought it was a great reminder for everyone in an office environment. I don’t have a lot of those corporate privileges—I’m a teacher in a state that is very dubious of unions—but I had some good ideas for future positions. I also really liked how much she sought to be inclusive with emphasizing the role that men & other women play in progress. It’s hard to advance when people are fighting each other!

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