In a few short weeks, lucky women all across America will get to hear one of the top businesswomen of our era, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, tell us that not only are we failing in the workforce, but that it's partly our own fault.
Sandberg, who has been quoted as saying, “I always thought I would run a social movement,” will release her book, Lean In, in early March. Along with the launch, she hopes to create Lean In groups where women follow a stringent set of rules (such as not being able to miss more than 2 meetings a year) in order to develop skills that will help them advance their careers. Sheryl Sandberg: our very own Tiger Career Counselor.
I must admit, I’m not incredibly eager to hear from Sandberg – who comes from a privileged background, holds two Harvard degrees, and has a ton of help in her 9,000-square-foot home – that women are responsible for our career struggles because we don't lean in when we should. I’ve seen far too many women fight to get back into the workforce after having a baby. Far too many women get laid off during the Great Recession. And far too many women who have done everything right and still can't find a job that matches their talents, skills and experience.
My sense is that Sandberg has absolutely no clue what the average woman has to do in order to keep a professional toe in the door. If she's like most of my peers, it's more than likely that these days, with young kids, she'd be searching for three things: a decent job, decent childcare and at least five decent minutes to herself in the bathroom. Before she tries to fix women, most of whom are busting their butts off already, I'd love for her fix the on-ramp back to corporate and non-corporate America. Because as many women in our thirties and over already know, it's broken.
Of course, we all need to take both personal and collective responsibility for the status of women in the workforce. But instead of telling women what they should be doing better, how about encouraging society to do better. How about using her clout to teach other leaders how to improve the status of women professionals within their organizations. I'd love to hear about Sandberg creating accountability groups in Silicon Valley and beyond. In the technology and business communities, and beyond. She's got muscle. Why is she using it on other women and not men?
From what I understand - and maybe, hopefully I'm wrong - her book and her so-called movement trumpet the World According to Sheryl Sandberg, not the World According to Reality. And until her reality and mine overlap a little bit more, I'd prefer to spend my days and nights doing something other than blaming myself.