The media is pitching Sheryl Sandberg’s vs. Annie-Marie Slaughter. One women describing in detail how “you can have it all” and another lamenting “women still can’t have it all”. While the issue is not – and should not be – between two women (both are entitled to their views), the both published their views and therefore, it is all fair game. The question is, who is right?
Ms. Sandberg is right. Very right.
Not because she is wealthy, living in a 9,000 square foot house with an entourage of help. Not because she is wildly successful – she EARNED that. But because she is encourage women not to give up. She is encouraging women to define their own careers. To redefine what career means and what success means.
This definition is personal. It is different for everyone. The issue – despite the apparent complexities – is actually quite simple.
- Women need to define what career means to them. And this definition can – and will – change throughout the course of their lives
- Women need to define success. It is different for everyone
- Women and their partners/families need to work together
- We need to take responsibility for our own choices.
1. Define your own career. And redefine it.
In Sandberg’s book Lean In – being released on March 11, she urges women to accept the fact that they are judged more harshly and paid less than men. Her mantra includes resisting slowing down in mere anticipation of having children and sharing housework equally with partners/spouses. She encourages women to create both short- and long-term career plans and join a “Lean In Circle,” a support group of like-minded women.
2. Define what success means to you. And only you.
The main reason Sheryl’s viewpoint strikes a chord? She does not blame society. She encourages women to step up, take control, recognize how they are perceived and CHANGE the way society views female careerists. Most important, she encourages women to CHANGE the way they view themselves.
As described in a NY Time article: In her view, women are also sabotaging themselves. “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she writes, and the result is that “men still run the world.”
3. Families need to work together. Husbands and Wives. Partners. Equals.
The counterpoint – is that the government and companies need to provide better benefits and more comprehensive child care. 6 weeks paid leave for having a baby is not enough. Fair point. 6 weeks is not enough. But whose choice is it to have the child? The company is not handing out brochures encouraging families to procreate. If couples want children, they need to be responsible for them too. We can choose companies that are more family-friendly, allow flexible work arrangements or tack on our vacation time to the end of maternity leave to stay home longer. We don’t HAVE to work for Yahoo! if their culture isn’t family-friendly or if we all can’t have a nursery in our office.
If our child falls off the deep end, does drugs, flunks school, etc., is it the governments fault or poor parenting? At what point do we take responsibility for our own choices and the impact of our choices?
4. We need to take responsibility for our own choices
Ms. Slaughter – Ms. Sandberg’s vocal opponent – believes society is holding women to unattainable personal and professional standards. Did she consider that she is holding herself to unattainable standards? Did she consider she (and her husband) should have redefined her career and her goals years ago rather than blame society? Her children struggled. Whose fault is that? The government’s? She regrets her professional choices and now that has become a substitute for why women can’t have it all.
Having it all does not exist. Ms. Slaughter feels slighted in life, professionally and maybe personally. I am sorry for her. But perhaps that is because she needs to reframe how she looks at her life.
She accomplished more than most. She served in the White House. Teaches at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Lives in a very wealthy area. If something was amiss, rather than looking externally, perhaps looking internally would have served her better? No one was holding a gun to her head. She and her husband could have made different choices at any time.
There is no such thing as having it all. That is not the point. What does having it all even mean? As individuals or as families, we need to determine what “all we can have”. And be HAPPY with that.
The Goal: Rise to the Top
After 14 years as an executive compensation consultant I learned one very important lesson – women are perceived differently than men because we allow ourselves to be perceived differently. And how we are perceived impacts our compensation levels. Women are THANKFUL for their pay. Men question why they can’t have more. Men are NOT TRYING to pay women less. Companies are delivering what they believe is fair. But what women are willing to accept as fair and what men are willing to accept as fair is remarkably different. Men are willing to deliver to get more – they realize they have to earn it. But then they want to be paid for their efforts. Women should too.
Women – we women – need to change the way things are done. We are our own worst enemies. Quick to judge each other. Quick to step over each other. And quick to blame each other.
If more women rise to the top – why can’t they change these company policies? Allow for more time at home to give birth and recover? If we don’t like the policies, we should put ourselves in a position to change them.