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Though it pains me to say this, she is right. We don’t immediately take a seat at the table. We don’t naturally speak out. We downscale our ambitions to accommodate future family responsibilities before we even need to, and don’t play the long game with our careers.
Professional women, Sandberg writes, “need to measure the cost of child care against their future salary rather than their current salary.” In other words, we shouldn’t be afraid to invest in ourselves.
As if anticipating the media-driven catfight that broke out as soon as advanced word of her book was published, Sandberg has strong criticism for the way women treat each other for the choices we make.
“I don’t know any woman who feels comfortable with all her decisions,” she writes. “As a result, we inadvertently hold that discomfort against those who remind us of the path not taken. Guilt and insecurity make us second-guess ourselves and, in turn, resent one another.”
And while we are busy resenting each other for being imperfect at home and imperfect at work because no one can be remotely perfect everywhere, we are holding ourselves back. To Sandberg’s reams of statistics cataloguing the dearth of women in leadership roles in the corporate sector, I will add my own experiences in Jewish media. Women submit opinion pieces at a far lower rate than men. Women are poorly represented in public programs and discussions.
How much of that is due to unspoken sexism and how much because we don’t raise our hands and keep them up until we are noticed? How much of it is because we are not confident in what we have to say?
Sandberg is trying, in her words, “to disrupt the status quo.” In my mind that is both an external and internal process. We must find partners willing to “lean in” and share family responsibilities. We must continue to advocate for the long-overdue institutional changes and government policies that will support working families, especially those who struggle economically.
But women have work to do on the inside, too. I know that I do. In the course of the few days I was reading this book, I found myself saying that I was “lucky” to win several national journalism awards. I wondered whether someone close to me should try for a new job when she was pregnant. I snidely put down Sheryl Sandberg because she is powerful, rich and well connected.
She is all those things. Maybe it takes someone like that to tell us what we don’t want to hear. Personally, I can do without the Lean In Circles and the Facebook promotion, but all of us — women and men alike — who care about creating a more equitable America ought to take her message to heart.
Contact Jane Eisner at Eisner@forward.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jane_Eisner