Maybe We All Need to "Lean In"

I spent the weekend wallowing in the media blitz that broke on Friday as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, hit the headlines, along with her goal of raising the consciousness of working women everywhere.


My first observation: Woo hoo!


Controversy is good for us women. All of us, whether we work full-time, stay-at-home, do the crazy hybrid-juggle dance, or have sworn off kids.  Conflict means debate, discussion, flame-throwing, brain-storming, truth-telling, venting, ranting and lots of media attention to the issues the bedevil women’s lives.


So far, corporate beasts including The New York Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Johnson & Johnson, Google and American Express have all lent their logos to Sandburg’s consciousness-raising circles.  Maybe family-friendlier policies will follow their public commitment to the cause.


This is ALL GOOD.


Second, I will throttle the next person who suggests anyone should IGNORE Sheryl Sandberg’s book because she is, insert dramatic pause here: “too successful.”


Consider this nugget from the New York Times: “Even her advisers acknowledge the awkwardness of a woman with double Harvard degrees, dual stock riches (from Facebook and Google, where she also worked), a 9,000 square-foot-house and a small army of household help urging less fortunate women to look inward and work harder”


The awkwardness? Come on.  To whom should we listen instead?


Is advice from the waitress at Daily Grill or a toll booth operator somehow more valuable that the COO of Facebook?


Since when are men advised to listen to their plumber instead of Jack Welch when it comes to their careers?


Sandberg is exactly the type of role model we should taking marching orders from.  She got the brass ring - actually, several of them.  Dismissing her wisdom about work, marriage, and motherhood is like telling rookie army recruits not to listen to four-star generals.  This woman, and others like her at the pinnacle of corporate America, are my idols.  Dang straight I want to hear their advice.


Unfortunately, though, there are many cruel questions Ms. Sandberg doesn’t tackle - ones that a waitress, plumber, or toll booth operator may have better answers to.


Sandberg’s suggestions - to plan ahead pragmatically, to set our sights high, to work diligently toward goals, to insist our partners do half the housework and kid-wrangling, to network with other women - are all superfantastic.  Every ambitious woman I know has acted accordingly.


But what do you do when life just doesn’t work out the way Sheryl Sandberg’s has?