After reading an article about the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, I was curious to find the TED presentation that inspired it. In this presentation, Sandberg discusses the three things we, as women, have to do in order to change the number of women leaders in the workplace– 1) Sit at the table, 2) Make your partner a real partner; and 3) Don’t leave before you leave.
Sit at the Table- What does this mean? It means it’s time to sit at the big wigs’ table. Women should not be afraid to go for the top positions. We need more women in high positions if we want to see change (as women can sympathize with other women and can help revise/create policies that will allow for an equal environment). Why don’t we have more women sitting at the table? According to Sandberg, women underestimate their abilities. Men attribute their successes to themselves (“I am successful because I am awesome”) while women attribute their successes with the help of others (“I am successful because of my mentor, my team, etc.”). I am definitely guilty of having done both of these things. I have never been too humble to tell people how awesome I am but I always give credit when credit is due. When I succeeded in my last big project at work, I made sure to tell the individuals who were praising my success that it was a team effort. Why? At the time, I believed it was proper to give my team some recognition too. I might have done the majority of the work but I didn’t do it all.
Make your partner a real partner- According to Sandberg, women are juggling three jobs (career, housewife and childcare provider) while the men handle one. Our husbands should share our “home” responsibilities by making dinner, picking up the children from daycare, etc. By doing this, women have more time to devote to their career. I can personally relate to this piece of advice. My husband is a “real” partner. We both work and split the “home” responsibilities so I don’t have to rush home to make dinner on days when I have to work late or go to school. How did I end up with such a great husband? I chose well. I am an independent woman who has always loved to work and make money. If I wanted to have a family and a career, I knew I had to find a man who did it all just like me. There is no man’s work or woman’s work in our house. We do it all.
Don’t Leave Before You Leave- According to Sandberg, women spend a lot of time planning ahead and tend to make decisions too far in advance. For exmaple, we may choose to not go for the promotion because it may cause us to travel and leave our kids. You may think this is a valid point but we think about this when we’re not even pregnant. Women need to stay in the workforce as long as possible and keep our foot on the gas pedal so instead of leaning back we need to lean forward and take on more responsibilities, go back to school, go for that promotion, etc. Because if we don’t, we’ll eventually get bored and quit. Our jobs need to be good enough in order for us to leave our babies. This is very true. Women are planners as even I am guilty of this. I chose to not pursue a career as a lawyer a few years ago because I believed it wasn’t realistic. I thought, “How was I going to be able to have a successful marriage and take care of my children while working 12+ hours as an associate lawyer?” Again, this might have been a valid point if I had been in that situation but I wasn’t even married yet or had any children.
While Sandberg makes some valid points in giving women the knowledge on how to succeed in the workforce, it shouldn’t all fall on us (women). If a woman does believe in herself, gives it her all, leans in and takes on as much responsibility as she can before she leaves for maternity leave, she is still playing on an unfair (work) field. Companies need to do their part too. Companies/managers need to provide an environment that is realistic and fair. If they want to retain their female talent, they will need to make it easier for women to juggle their career and mom responsibilities by providing daycare, installing expecting mothers parking spots, having flexible hours for new parents, etc. This is not about giving “special” treatment for the female employees. This is about providing an equal environment for all employees. By providing an equal enviroment, Companies can fill their positions with the best employees (male or female). I wouldn’t expect my company to expect less work from me just because I had a child but instead allow me some flexibility in order for me to continue to do my job given the circumstances. While this saying may apply for married life “happy wife, happy life,” the same could apply for employees “happy employee, happy (work) life.”