I’m a little worked up today. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg seems to have rocked the world with her new book Lean In. I’m shocked that her encouragement of women could be controversial. What’s the controversy about?
“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,” says Sandberg.
She’s talking about female executives, and I’ve seen the same behavior in female entrepreneurs. In fact, I write about some of these same points in a white paper about why women run smaller businesses than men. I developed a deep and substantive workshop specifically to help women look inside at what’s holding them back, to get clear on their expectations, learn to find their voice, embrace their power and stop playing small. (Stay tuned…coming in April.)
What I find so troubling about the controversy is that it’s female journalists and bloggers criticizing her, implying that she’s “blaming” women. Blaming them for what?
From Sandberg’s TED talk and what I’ve seen of her subsequent speech at a graduation ceremony, I hear her saying that women sabotage themselves at work in ways that men do not. She is not denying that some workplace cultures make it harder for women to succeed. I think there’s a difference between saying something equivalent to, “Let’s take a close look at our own behavior and how we contribute to the problem” and “blaming women.”
Women turning on one another is just one more way we sabotoge ourselves.
I think Sandberg’s LeanIn circles are a great idea. My company, EWF International, has been creating and facilitating these peer advisory groups for fifteen years . The members learn from one another, through open requests for input and honest feedback. Notice I said honest, not brutal. The women are there to help one another, not criticize.
Let’s agree that there is more than one factor contributing to the fact that women still earn only 77 cents on the dollar. Let’s agree there is more than one factor contributing to the fact that self-employed women earn only 55% of what self-employed men earn.
Then lets’ take responsibility for our side of the street, quit making excuses, and pointing fingers. Let’s learn to embrace our power, live the lives we really want, and earn what we deserve. And please, let’s quit criticizing each other on the journey.