I finished reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg a few weeks ago, and I am still not sure what I think of her Lean In theory. (If you don’t know about her, I’d recommend you watch this TED talk before reading on.)
A part of me wants to break through, and fight the stereotypes and be a woman that takes on the working world rather than sitting on the sidelines, but another part of me is content not being in charge in any way or form. I like the root of her idea, that as part of our nature women generally are not good at defending themselves and society does not look favorably on a woman who is willing to be assertive or in charge.
There are positives to her book. I particularly liked the chapter on equal roles in relationships, specifically for parenting. She outlines the stereotypes and cultural expectations of a wife and mother compared to those of a husband and father, and explains that even though we have come so far in women’s right, inside the home we are often closer to the 1950s than 2010s. She has a point. I agree that it is important to make sure you have an equal partnership in you marriage, including housework responsibilities. But there were also parts of her book that made me feel downright inadequate.
The chapter on mentoring made me cry, but not in a good way. I have never had someone I would describe as a mentor, and though I have wanted that sort of relationship I have never really been able to find one. After reading her take on mentorship I left the hypothetical table with two thoughts….
1. I will never have a mentor because I will never be as organized as the mentees in the examples she gives. I will never have a concise idea of what I need/want from such a person, nor will I have a 2 minute sales pitch to win them over.
2. Without a mentor, I will not succeed. I may do well, but the odds are against me of making it to the top.
While the sensible side of me knows that a mentor is not the key to my success, I do feel rather dejected that I do not have one.
Also, her writing on needing more women in the workforce left me feeling rather dejected. She writes from the perspective of her own experience, an executive at several large and very public companies, so it is understandable that she wants to defend women in the work force. And I, as a working woman, do know (and have seen) the obstacles that women face in the working world. But I don’t think that a woman needs to work to feel fulfilled.
You see, I WANT to stay home when I have children, at least for the first few years. But the book made me feel ashamed for not wanting to work, for not helping contribute to any future rise in women in the work force. It also made me feel guilty for not wanting to be a CEO, COO, or some high-up in a company or organization. But I don’t want to be a boss. I am very content being a worker bee in the corner that is good at her job, likes a little variation, but doesn’t want to have the world on her shoulders. Sheryl points out that our society/culture teaches women that it is unladylike to be ambitious or to want to be in charge, and she argues that we as women need to fight that and be ambitious. But I am not ambitious, at least not in the sense she implies… does that mean I am wrong?
No, I’m not wrong. I think that women who strive to break barriers in the work place are to be respected and supported, but I do not think that women who choose to stay home to raise their children or simply because they want to work from home should be seen or treated any differently.
Why do we women treat those whose choices don’t match our own with distain? Sheryl is right about that, we need to stand by each other and support each other even when we choose different paths.