I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for a while, ever since I read this article in Marie Claire while simultaneously listening to an interview on Bloomberg with Cheryl Sandberg (not on purpose, just coincidentally). But my other planned posts got my time and this one was pushed aside. Until I commented on Caitlin’s post. It’s a rather lengthy comment and I decided it was time for me to give this topic the attention it deserves on my own little blog. Head on over to Healthy Tipping Point to read the amazing comments others left. And here is my own comment:
“I work in finance and have Bloomberg TV on behind me all day so I have been hit to death with Sandberg and Mayer. There is also an article in Marie Claire about this issue. I don’t know what to think… on one hand Sandberg’s comment that there is no work-life balance bothered me. Either she or someone else in the MC article said if you want to get ahead in business you have to give up everything else. Immediately my back went up and I thought, “why can’t we have it all? Why can’t we get ahead in business and have whatever else it is we want?” I got pretty indignant (that’s my favorite word, btw) but then I realized, hey these ladies are probably right and it’s about time someone says the truth. When you want to excel in one area of your life, be it work, family, health, anything, then other parts suffer. It is impossible to give 100% to multiple things and you have to make a choice. It might have to be as black and white as the ladies in the MC article was making it, but there is a give and take there. I really liked what the founder of Care.com said in response to Mayer. She said that every business person has to make a decision that is best for their company and she doesn’t know what kind of situation Mayer was in when she made that change. For care.com, it works in their environment for people to work from home. It is so important to remember that we don’t know the real reason behind Mayer’s decision… maybe too many people were taking advantage and work was suffering? Who knows. Overall, I think it is important to define this for you and not worry about what others are thinking. Okay, this post warrants its own blog post.”
I definitely rambled, but I thought it would be best for me to copy and paste what I wrote and not edit. I wrote quickly, without thinking, and couldn’t stop my fingers from moving. That, in my opinion, is the best kind of writing. It’s free, uninhibited, and shows you have passion for what you’re writing about. When I taught composition at colleges I told my students to never edit what they’re writing while they’re writing. It is the worst thing you can do to your writer self. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day (see, you can tell I’m passionate about writing too!).
So let’s backtrack and explain what’s going on. There are two main players in this discussion. On one side, we have Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook since about 2008. Why is she in the news? Her book, Lean In, just published. Pretty sure I’m going to have to read it. In it she discusses the subtitle: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give any details or opinions, but it is ruffling some feathers.
On Bloomberg, one of the complaints I heard is that apparently Sandberg was given a lot of help in her career. That she had a lot of high-powered mentors that helped her get where she is today. I don’t know the story behind this, but is that her fault? Should we commend or applaud her for using her resources to be successful? I think the person who complained about this was saying that she got where she is because she was given a hand up and it is not possible for every woman to get that hand up. So, again, does she not deserve to be applauded for her hand up? So what. Isn’t it true that most of where we get in life is from our connections? Especially in today’s job market, the best way to get a job is through networking.
I believe the idea behind her title, Lean In, is that women need to be leaning in more at the conference tables and be heard. That women have been “leaning out” for too long and hold themselves back in their career. I agree with this. It is true that women are often the lesser heard group in the workplace (generalizing here, I know) and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Clearly, leaning in worked for Sandberg. She has a lean in personality. I don’t. I have a sit back, observe, and figure out where I can fit in personality. Once I figure that out, I’ll lean in but I won’t lay on the table. Okay, I just realized that maybe that’s what Sandberg is saying. (see the benefit of free writing?) I doubt Sandberg just leaned in at every chance she got and spewed every thought she had. She probably did a fair amount of listening as well and figured out how to make herself indispensable to the company. Then she leaned in. She laid on that table and rolled around until everyone took notice. I’m guessing here, but I’m thinking that’s probably what happened.
Now on to player 2. Marissa Mayer is President and CEO of Yahoo since 2012 and she is in the news for her recent decision to call everyone back into Yahoo. What does that mean? No more working from home. Okay, let’s look at this further too. First, we don’t know all of the reasons behind her decision. Second, she was called away from Google to do a job at Yahoo. There are reasons why Yahoo wanted her, why they needed a new CEO. Let’s be real here, it’s all about money and traffic, right? So we can assume that Mayer was brought into Yahoo to up traffic, shake up the search engine, and thereby up the money. Third, she’s already successful. Yahoo stock is up (I know this because I listen to stocks all. day. long.) and their new homepage is awesome. I actually like Yahoo now. I didn’t before.
Okay, so Mayer came into Yahoo in the summer of 2012 and sent out a memo to her workforce: “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” And a fire storm erupted. How dare she call everyone into the office and eliminate telecommuting. How dare she make a decision, a decision she no doubt made to make Yahoo more successful, that many of us already do. Yes, there is evidence that working from home increases productivity and serves to raise the work-satisfaction of your employees. But we don’t know… maybe that wasn’t working at Yahoo. Maybe Mayer took a look around and thought, “hmm where are all the people? Where is the work they are supposed to be doing? Where is the team spirit?” Or maybe she thought,” hmm if I have to come into the office then so do you.” We don’t know and that is the point.
So why is Mayer’s decision so major? I really have no idea. Because, guess what? Hubert Joly, the new CEO of Best Buy, has also canceled the work from home policy. Did you know that? Have you heard about that? Nope. I haven’t either. Bloomberg hasn’t mentioned one thing about it. What gives? Why is Mayer in the news 24/7 for this, but I’ve never even heard of Joly until I researched Mayer. That’s another thing—I only heard of Joly because of Mayer! Mayer is in the news because she is a woman. It’s plain and simple. She is being torn apart because her decision is affecting the women at Yahoo who work at home to be able to also take care of their families. How dare a woman take that away from a woman.
Women in the workplace isn’t a new topic. But women leaders is. It may seem like we’re gaining equality in the workplace because of all the recent attention on women leaders, but we’re not really. We’re still running to catch up. And even though that’s the truth, and even though we’re only hearing of Sandberg and Mayer in a negative way, I’m still glad we’re hearing about. It’s about time we get forced to discuss the difficulties women have to face. Mayer and Sandberg are just highlighting it.
Now onto the Marie Claire article. It’s really bothering me that I can’t find the quote I’m looking for online. I did find this one and I do like this one so read it. Maybe I made it up. I might have just become a liar online. But I remember reading someone saying that you can’t have it all. That if you want to be successful in your career, your home life has to give. And, like I said in my comments on Caitlin’s blog, at first I was pretty pissed. I was outraged. And then I calmed down and realized, no she’s right she’s just finally saying it out loud. It is impossible to give 100% to everything. Impossible. It defies the definition of 100%. You cannot give 100% of yourself to two things, that would be 200% and we don’t have 200%. But I think what also bothers me is the fact that the work world hasn’t caught up to that yet. It was never a problem before when men were the leaders and gave 100% to their work and 0% to their families. They were commended for it. They were applauded. Look at how successful they are. Look at their car. Look at their family with the finest things. And the woman stayed at home, picked up the slack, and helped her man get to where he was. Because, for real, without the woman the man wouldn’t have been able to function. Who would set out his clothes, prepare his dinner, make sure everything he needs is in its proper place. If we’re going to commend the man we need to commend the woman.
Some say that a woman is better served in the home. That might be true for some. It’s definitely not true for all. Just like it isn’t true that a man is better served in the workplace. Not everyone is cut out for that. But a woman does feel a need to be both mother and worker. Whether its mother to her own children or mother to her employees or mother to her pets, a woman has the mothering need in her. And a man doesn’t. So the work world needs to catch up to that. The outside forces need to find the work-life balance before the people inside can.
So what is my point in this rant? I’m not really sure. But I knew this topic deserves everyone’s discussion. Other women leaders are being asked to comment on it and I loved what Care.com CEO and Founder Sheila Marcelo said in an interview on Bloomberg. When asked about how she feels about Mayer’s decision, Marcelo said
“I think she’s probably dealing with a very specific issue and challenge in her company. Being a founder and CEO in my own as a business person there are specific challenges and I don’t know what they are. With regards to what we do at care, we’re very specific about making sure that we allow the flexibility because it works in our environment.”
Ugh, awesome. You definitely need to watch this interview. Marcelo carries herself with such grace and intelligence. Why do I love her? She saw a need in her own life and wanted to help others. She sees this need growing and changing and she continues to grow and change. She seems amazingly compassionate and reflective. I just love her. I hope nothing bad comes out about her or she won’t be the superhero I imagine her to be.
So what are your thoughts on this? How do you feel about Sandberg, Mayer, and Marcelo? Has anyone read Lean In?
Oh, and one last thing, Mayer is 37 and Sandberg is 43. Well done, ladies. Well done.