The Benefit of Raising Little Miss Sassafras, According to Sheryl Sandberg

There’s been a lot of media coverage surrounding Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In. She’s been criticized in the press for being an elitest, for her privilege, for a whole slew of claims …ironic mostly because she apparently addresses all this criticism at the beginning of her book …

I haven’t read the book yet and wouldn’t be able to do a full review until I do, but it seems the crux of her argument is that women are their own worst enemies when it comes to the workplace, and that if we really boosted each other up more/supported each other more for our decisions, more women might have the opportunity to sit in the C-suite someday.

That is, if they want it.

And if they don’t, she argues, that’s OK too … we make our own choices. The bottom line is, we have no reason to sell ourselves short if we do want it, simply because of our gender. And, she argues, if we do want it, we need to lean in … not out.

It’s funny. I used to think I was ambitious — and in some respects, I still do. It’s still my dream to be a published author (something I haven’t forgotten about; life has just been too busy to focus) …. but at work, I am satisfied with my status quo. I love my job and my role and don’t really want more.

I realize how awful that might sound to some readers — how could she be content and not want more?! But I genuinely don’t. I want to be respected for my work, but what I want most of all is to have more time with my family. I don’t want to work harder or longer in order to make more money/be more successful. I think I work hard enough/long enough right now. I might not (OK, will not) get a promotion for feeling this way … but to be honest, that’s OK. I don’t want to leave work at 6 or 7 every day and miss that short window I have with my sweet girl.

I’m learning that my ambition has a glass ceiling … and it’s one I created. That said, I recognize this. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel this way. While I am curious to hear Sheryl Sandberg’s advice — as a successful businesswoman — I don’t intend to ever emulate her, or want to be her. Yet I do think we can learn from some of her experiences. As another blogger said, “why wouldn’t we want to learn from someone at the top?”

Another thing Sandberg discusses is how women are all-too-often conditioned to be “nice” and how “bossiness” tends to be frowned upon … little girls are basically stifled from asserting themselves which — ironically — is a trait that helps men garner respect and plow ahead.

Excerpt from an NPR piece.

“Two lines of argument run through Lean In. One of them has to do with how society has changed through multiple generations of feminism. The other has to do with the way society views women — and how that affects the way women view themselves.

Boys, she says, are socialized to be assertive and aggressive and take leadership. Girls? “We call our little girls bossy,” Sandberg says. “Go to a playground: Little girls get called ‘bossy’ all the time, a word that’s almost never used for boys. And that leads directly to the problems women face in the workforce. When a man does a good job, everyone says, ‘That’s great.’ When a woman does that same thing, she’ll get feedback that says things like, ‘Your results are good, but your peers just don’t like you as much’ or ‘maybe you were a little aggressive.’ “

This isn’t just Sandberg’s observation. She cites data showing positive correlations between success and likability for men, and negative correlations between success and likability for women. “That means that as a man gets more successful, he is better liked by men and women, and as a woman gets more successful, she is less liked by men and women,” Sandberg explains. “But I want to be clear: I am not saying that men are too self-confident. That’s not the problem. The problem is that women aren’t self-confident enough.”

I’m raising a little girl who is, at two, VERY opinionated. And I tease her all the time for being “Little Miss Sassafras” … but in reality, she’s feeling her oats and, well, she’s two. But maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to correct her when she does get bossy … reading Sandberg’s take definitely gives me pause.

Now does this mean I don’t want my daughter to be nice and pleasant to be around? Of course not. I’d want any child — boy or girl — to be nice and pleasant to be around. But like Sandberg says, I also want her to be confident and proud of who she is; have a strong self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Maybe her “bossiness” isn’t such a big deal, so long as she isn’t bullying anyone or harming anyone else.

At the very least, reading about Sandberg’s take definitely makes me want to pick up her book this weekend. I think we all can learn a lot from her, regardless of the choices we make.

And it makes me want to carve a little time out of my day to write more than the proposal for my book … no time like the present!

How about you? Did you read/do you want to read Lean In? Any thoughts?


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