Single Ladies Need Better Work-Life Balance, Too
Working women are looking to one of the world's top female execs, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, as she dishes out advice on work in her much-written-about, much-talked-about book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
In a world where we expect to have to choose between work and family, Sandberg wants to introduce "and" into a conversation that has mainly been about the "either/or," writes Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in The Atlantic.
For her efforts, Sandberg has been criticized by other women, from Maureen Dowd to Anne-Marie Slaughter, who characterize Sandberg as "looking down" on women who don't have the success she does and offering them a sort of "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" ethic. But Sandberg is fully aware of her privileges, and it seems a little hypocritical for readers to pretend they would be interested in advice from someone without Sandberg's success.
Sandberg focuses on women because she argues that we tend to limit ourselves, rather than enforcing limits on our environment. She encourages women to take on more responsibilities at work while making the demands necessary to make their lives balance.
"In addition to the external barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. 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," Sandberg wrote. This sounds critical, but to me it reads as empowering. Sandberg is urging readers who say "no" to try "yes, but with conditions."
I've been stuck in a workplace where I did plenty of "leaning in," but the culture and other employees did not make it easy to set boundaries or make demands. While Sandberg mainly addresses working moms, those of us without husbands or without kids value commitments to our communities, friends, and churches, and we don't want to sacrifice our lives to work, either.
Sandberg's advice is not exactly revolutionary: Find a mentor; learn negotiation strategies; understand the relative value your field sets on certain skills; be persistent in making requests; know what makes for a reasonable demand and make it. She also suggests women join a "Lean In circle," a small group of professional women, linked to a "global community," that's supposed to meet throughout the year. She advocates that women discuss their careers with each other, because knowing there is precedent when you want to make certain demands can make all the difference.
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