“I want every little girl who [is told] they’re bossy to be told instead, “You have leadership skills.”
– Sheryl Sandberg on 60 Minutes, March 10, 2013
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer for Facebook, hit the headlines this past week with the publication of her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf). Simultaneously, she launched a website, Leanin.org, to offer women educational information, encouragement and forums to share career experiences and aspirations and take part in “lean-in circles.”
Her comments about girls and leadership were just some that aired during a 60 Minutes interview that kicked off a week of publicity tours, op-ed pieces, blog posts and commentary far and wide, both pro and anti-Sandberg.
She has many points to make on the topic of women, how they fare in the workplace and how they can and should aspire to lead.
I haven’t read her book yet so I’m only commenting on what I’ve read and heard about it. I’m curious to see for myself what she’s proposing but some of her points, including that women should lean in, rather than lean back, and take leadership and senior roles in their workplaces resonates loud and clear.
In some circles she’s been criticized because she has a Harvard education and is a multimillionaire. Her critics grouse: She’s out of touch. Her experience doesn’t mirror the thousands of women who don’t have the same credentials and socioeconomic status that she does. She made her money with generous stock options at Google and Facebook. The underlying message is that she really didn’t have to work that hard to get where she did. She was privileged. And, horrors, this is a self-proclaimed “feminist” manifesto.
Really? Is that really as far as we’ve come in the second decade of the 21st century?
Rather than subtly attacking her pedigree, why aren’t we applauding her achievements? Why aren’t we saying, “Bravo, Ms. Sandberg for earning a Harvard degree.” (Two actually.) And “Bravo, Ms. Sandberg, you’re a role model and a leader who has achieved great success at two of the world’s most successful technology companies.”
I’m sure I’m not going to agree with everything Sandberg proposes but I love that she’s opened the conversation up again. I’m relishing the debates and the questions that have slowly started to take shape among my colleagues and my peers.
I’d much rather herald Sandberg’s points of view as starting points for discussion with my daughter as counterpoints to the bombardment of infantalized and sexualized images of women portrayed on Say Yes to the Dress or The Bachelor.
From one “bossy” woman to another: Bravo, Sheryl.