Thursday, February 9, 2012

Everyone's Talking About Sheryl Sandberg

Unless you've been living in a hole (which I sometimes do), you've probably noticed that everyone, everywhere (I exaggerate only slightly) has been talking about Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO lately.

I've noticed a couple of trends in the recent internet discussions about her.

There's this odd debate about the role of "luck" in her story. "She just got lucky." As if "luck" and "hard work" are mutually exclusive. As if building a relationship with a key mentor or leaving one job for a better one is just about "luck" and has nothing at all to do with "hard work." What's up with the either/or thinking? Why can't it be BOTH "luck" AND "hard work"?

There's also the sad/endless media-created "Mommy Wars" (gah!) debate Sandberg's story brings up: WOHM, SAHM, blah blah snore, you already know my take on this = who gives a shit about the label? (All I care about are the non-existent "Daddy Wars.") People are INDIVIDUALS with UNIQUE PREFERENCES. As in, there are people like to wear capri pants sometimes, or shell out $75 for the unflattering canvas footwear du jour that's all the rage. I happen to think they're fugly, but at least I know my way isn't necessarily "right." To each their own. Every family has unique needs and challenges. I'm not going to compare my own needs and my sorely limited set of work/life balance resources to those of a billionaire married to a multi-millionaire endowed with multiple live-in nannies and kids who probably slept through the night at birth. But good for them. I'm awesome in my own way. So are they.

Where was I?

Oh yes. There's also the debate about the Horatio Alger fantasy the Sandberg story conjures. It's great that someone from a relatively disadvantaged group (women) "Made It," and has succeeded (in terms of pecuniary gain and revered social status) beyond most capitalist dreams. "One of them did it, so why can't they all?"... "They just need to work harder... stop lacking ambition" ... "Be born to better parents."

I think this blogger gets it.


Anandi said...

I must be living under a rock - I'm in a tech job and haven't noticed people discussing Sandberg lately. Thanks for the info :)

I remembered reading a WSJ interview with Sandberg, Marissa Mayer from Google, and one other woman (maybe also from Google) and thought that I *totally* COULD NOT relate to them. I don't know if it's because none of them had little kids, or they just were bursting with SO MUCH career ambition, but I almost felt like they were from another planet.

Got It, Ma! said...

I think, as you suggest, the real question is not why we ask women how they balance work and parenthood. It's why we don't ask the same question of men. Do you know that the U.S. Census department tracks men caring for their own children in their own homes as "child care," the same as it would for a nanny or babysitter, but women caring for children in their own homes is not tracked as such? What decade is this, anyway?

hush said...

@Anandi - I'm oddly glad to hear you're in tech and yet are not hearing about SS everywheres. ;) I agree about that "on another planet" feeling as you so well put it. While it's a planet I don't necessarily want to live on, it's cool that others do.

@Got It, Ma! - Amen! Institutionalized sexism, anyone?

mom2boy said...

I hadn't heard of her before today. But I agree. To each their own family dynamic.

Oh oh oh are you talking about Toms? Because my gf got a pair and I mocked her for it. (yes they do the get one give one to kids thing very progressive but ugly shoes!!) Again to each their own even within each family. :)

Anandi said...

Toms are $75?! Who pays that??

Yeah, I totally think there should be a place for women on that other planet ;) but it's not my thing.

And +++20 to Got It Ma on why the hell they never ask men how they balance work with family. A lot of the guys I know *are* worried about it.

Cloud said...

I think Penelope Trunk is wrong. I have a friend who is running a start up right now. He doesn't have kids, but he finds time to play tennis, learn piano, travel... in short, he has a life outside of work. And his start up is doing well.

I feel another rant coming on about the absolute bullshit lies that our culture feeds us about work-life balance. I don't have time tonight. I have to work.... (Really!) But I think I'll have to get it out soon.

I should go read the profiles of Sandberg, but I fear my head may explode.

hush said...

@mom2boy & @Anandi - Yep, I'm talking about Toms. ;) I mocked one of my friends for buying a pair for herself and for her 2-year-old. I don't get it, but they make her very happy.

@Cloud - I thought the same thing re: PT's commentary. Unless one has worked at EVERY startup, how can one be so sure they are all impossible for having a life? Every place of work has a unique culture, and sure we can generalize perhaps, but we're almost definitely going to be wrong if we say an entire industry isn't a fit for parents, people with hobbies, etc.

Looking forward to your post about it, as always!

Vacationland Mom said...

Ridiculous double standards, everywhere you look. Didn't it seem for awhile that they were making more commercials with Dad doing the dishes, Dad doing the laundry, etc.? Now we seem to be back to Mom doing everything and Dad is a big Doofus who can't figure anything out for himself. Is it because of wartime mentality? UGH.

Anandi said...

Just coming back now - I worked at a startup a few years ago and it would have been awesome if I had kids. It was like crickets chirping come 5:30pm and no one emailed at night or on weekends. Too bad I didn't realize it at the time - my super-ambitious pre-kid self was looking for *more* ;)