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.
She 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.