Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leaning In or Breaking Out - A Different Take on Why Some Woman Aren't Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In has got me thinking about my own decisions and assumptions about what the balance of work and family would be in my own life and I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you.

I grew up in a 2 adults working/ 1 1/2 parent household, which means both my parents had full-time jobs, but my mom did most of the parenting.  Watching her walk through the door at 5:30pm everyday, rest her bags by the staircase, then head straight to the kitchen to cook dinner in her heels (while my Dad was upstairs watching TV) is probably one of the defining images of my life.

I decided right then and there (before I was even 12) that if I ever had a family, I would work part-time when I had kids.  The idea that I would, should or could do all the house work, all the cooking and all the childrearing AND work a full-time job just seemed ridiculous.  Putting aside the fact that, as a little girl, I didn't think I would ever get married, even I knew that the suggestion that I could "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you're a man" was a bunch of bull and I refused to drink the Kool-Aid.

I STILL can't believe this crap!

Fast forward 28 years, 2 career, 3 businesses, 1 marriage and 2 kids later and I still agree with that little girl.  There is no shortage of dreams and ambition in my bones. Ask any of my former bosses, staff members or colleagues and they will tell you that I'm not afraid to challenge or be challenged.  If I'm sitting in a business meeting, I expect a seat at the table.  In fact, it's where I'm most comfortable (it's also where I am least likely to fall asleep).

But my choice to work part-time and seek out more flexible careers when my husband and I decided to start a family had less to do with giving up the corporate world than creating the greatest number of options for me to define motherhood in the way that worked best for me and my family.  And I see a lot of women in my generation doing the same - rejecting the either/or choice of work vs home to break the mold entirely and map out a new road - the world according to me.  

In June of last year, Forbes magazine declared "Entrepreneurship is the New Women's Movement".  This brave new world includes negotiating everything from dinner to financing terms for your home-based start-up and managing a team of contractors on a job site while you coach little league.  The balance is defined by the way we want to live:
  • Passionate about the things that are important to us
  • Powerful in the realms we choose to walk and
  • Connected to what we value most.
I know the numbers for women represented at the top of the corporate ladder may not be as impressive as some would like, but the view from where I'm standing looks pretty darn good because I'm standing with a bunch of other women who measure their lives and their contribution to the world by the only metrics that matter - their own. 

Haven't heard of Sheryl Sandberg?  She's the COO of Facebook. Check out a brief seminar she gave on women in corporate leadership here.

*Addendum* I wrote this post quite awhile ago, but didn't post it because I heard Ms. Sandberg was getting a lot of backlash for her book and I didn't want to be a part of the chorus.  For the record, I don't think that Ms. Sandberg is trying to tell mothers how to run their lives. My impression is that her book is geared towards young women at the beginning of their careers.  I think her book is primarily designed to help them ask important questions BEFORE they make assumptions and decisions that may not be right for them and I, for one, think that is a good thing. For my thoughts on the "Ban Bossy" campaign click here.  

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