07 April 2013 ~ 1 Comment

Slaughter vs Sandberg

A key point of difference has been between those who push for women to behave more like men; and those who push for workplace structures and cultures to change to accommodate women.  The most recent manifestation is the contrasting viewpoints of two high profile American women, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Sheryl Sandberg.   One of the most powerful women in the US, Slaughter ‘came out’ about her maternal leanings after she quit her dream job in the Obama administration to pay more attention to her adolescent son. (see previous post, Having it all)

Sandberg in her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, published earlier 2013, puts down the dearth of women in senior roles as a failure by women to ‘lean in’, to put themselves forward for career promotion as men do.  The thrust of her book is that it is women who hold themselves back; that they need to behave more like their male counterparts.

In reviewing Sandberg’s book Slaughter argues:

“Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work. Young women might be much more willing to lean in if they saw better models and possibilities of fitting work and life together: ways of slowing down for a while but still staying on a long-term promotion track; of getting work done on their own time rather than according to a fixed schedule; of being affirmed daily in their roles both as parents and as professionals.”

As you might have guessed, I agree with Slaughter’s sentiments.  Sandberg has a point but is missing the key point.

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