Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg: Why Women Aren't Like Me at Work

By Joy Pullmann

Facebook COO and otherwise wildly career-successful Sheryl Sandburg has a new book out on women in the workforce. She brings her perspective to the tiresome question: Why aren't there more women at the top?

It's a tiresome question because all these quotas and grass-is-greener comparisons smack, to me, of large, steaming piles of envy. If there's some active evil force somewhere pushing down talented women who want to be CEO, fine. Let's discuss that. But, as Sandburg points out, it's women themselves who actually do not prefer to sell their souls to the workplace, which is usually necessary to get to the top. From the Wall Street Journal:

She describes a speech that she gave at Harvard Business School in 2011. During the question-and-answer session afterward, the male students asked such questions as "What did you learn at Google that you are now applying at Facebook?" and "How do you run a platform company and ensure stability for your developers?" The female students asked such questions as "How can I get a mentor?"—the "professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming," as Ms. Sandberg puts it. Her advice: If you want a mentor, impress a higher-up with how good you are at doing your job. She is similarly dismayed by a young woman at Facebook who asked her advice about how to "balance work and family"—even though the young woman wasn't even married. "If current trends continue," Ms. Sandberg told the business-school students, "fifteen years from today, about one-third of the women in this audience will be working full-time and almost all of you will be working for the guy you are sitting next to." 
As the WSJ reviewer points out, Sandburg contradicts herself. She insists women are the same as men, except we can nurse babies, but then frets about and suggests ways to get more women into high positions. If we're the same as men, who cares?

Sandburg also perpetuates this myth that women want to work 100 hours a week and never see their kids, because that's really what it does take to get to the top, as Penelope Trunk points out. That's why Trunk got off the fast track. She also points out a reason women feel so stressed out by doing what we generally actually like (having kids and being around for them): Society no longer respects that choice. Even though it's essential to society's Social Security benefits and the existence of future taxpayers and doctors and people who will not rape and loot them, parenting is no longer a respectable solo occupation.

You can change that, as a woman, by telling any and everyone who makes snide comments about mothering and kids that you believe it a wonderful, difficult, heroic occupation.

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