Women in Leadership

Before you read the rest of this post, watch this TED video: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

I think this is a really interesting perspective from a woman who knows a thing or two about corporate culture.

Akeelah and the BeeShe is dead right about disliking women for their success. The messages we send girls about achievement are mixed, at best. Four years ago, I wrote a post about the movie Akeelah and the Bee. Some people told me I was taking the whole thing too seriously. (I am a radical feminist, you see.) I think Sheryl Sandberg makes the case quite well why these messages actually do matter.

Her advice to “sit at the table” reminded me of a moment several years ago. I was working on a project and my boss and I disagreed on strategy. We had some reasonably heated internal discussions about the best way to proceed. I was not successful at persuading him to change course. I arrived at a meeting for the project separately from him. The meeting included multiple stakeholders outside our office. I walked in with the handouts for the meeting, passed them out, and took a seat on the side of the room. One of the stakeholders walked over to ask for another copy. He invited me to join the others at the table. He knew I was doing significant work on the project. I quipped I was fine where I was, “I know my place.”

The truth was my boss was still mad at me because I had questioned his ideas. I knew full well that stepping up to the table at that meeting meant I would not even be at the next meeting. I had to make the choice to be at the table once or in the room many times. For me, it wasn’t just about being liked. It was about being punished.

These are complicated issues. They involve power sharing and power hoarding, viewing money as a scorecard vs. family security, risk taking vs. nurturing, following the rules vs. pushing boundaries and the ever-present mommy guilt.

It seems a paradox, but I think being out of the workforce for a while doing the ultra-feminine mom gig has actually given me a better perspective on the man’s world of corporate culture than graduate school did. When I was working before, I was terrified if I didn’t have work, I’d have nothing. Now I’ve been called the worst thing you could have called me before I turned 30: a mommy blogger. And you know what, who cares? I don’t anymore. much.

I don’t think I would sit on the side of the room now. I hope not. Now, I actually know my place. I can’t be “punished” any worse than I already have been. My work went away, but I didn’t. In some ways, I’ve actually found my real self because I lost my old self.

I’m beginning discussions with various folks about work. I’m excited about the potential. Fingers crossed something comes together, but the right situation, the proper fit. Fair warning: I might take over the place.



Filed under The view from here

3 responses to “Women in Leadership

  1. Kandi

    I really enjoy your blog…I’ve been a regular reader since I saw it featured in Little Rock Family, but have never commented. This is a great post…these are issues I have struggled with for years. Ironically, I related to both your most recent post (none of your business!) and this one about work. I am about to leave the work force by choice and there are all these questions and flurry of opinion buzzing around me about why. I worry what messages I’m sending to my young girls by leaving and not “sitting at the table”, while also worrying what messages I send when I make the sacrifices to sit there. And the whole time, I want to scream at people asking questions and giving opinions…b/c these are the deicsions I have to live with, not them. Thanks for articulating things that truly do matter in a way that is not judgmental, just thought provoking.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. Every family is different. Please do what’s right for your family. If that’s being at home, then go for it. If that’s being in the workforce, then work it. I’ve done both at various times because that’s what worked for my family then. Everyone else can hush it.

  2. Elizabeth

    I was told about your site by a dear friend – and after perusing I stopped and gawked for a minute at this post. You hit the nail on the head. From work place to (volunteer) organizational disagreements, I’ve had similar predicaments. On a recent encounter with someone I didn’t see eye-to-eye with, it honestly felt that the *ahem* gentleman wouldn’t have pulled the stunt he did if my gender were different. Anyway – thanks for the article. I enjoyed reading it and continue to enjoy your posts!