Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sheryl Sandberg Leans In on Women

Let's expand on three crucial, albeit under-appreciated, matters that Sheryl Sandberg speaks to.  First, top leaders must hire partners or staff who complement their strengths and-or cover their weaknesses.  There is an inviolable tendency, which I once called the Imperative of Sameness, to hire people like us, which narrow the range of ideas and diversity of background in the organization.  I would add, however, that it is nonsense, and potentially disastrous, to hire people who are radically unlike us.  There must be a resonance of sameness, to begin with, and that may be a value (e.g., achievement), or a trait (e.g.,  confidence), or a belief (equality).  That resonance, then, is the basis for complementary.

Second, we must empower women and women must come to feel empowered.  There is such history of inequity between the genders, that, it seems to me, some women demure at the notion of equality (e.g., pay).  The long-time oppressed may be so grateful at the freedom to venture beyond the gates and perhaps enter employment or management ranks that the $0.77 to the $1.00 in pay gap isn't a battle worth fighting for or it isn't something they're empowered to fight.  My point here is that the roadblocks to empowerment are both external and internal, and whatever degrees of each actually exist in particular women must be acknowledged openly, understood empathically, and resolved conscientiously.  

Third, Sandberg's call for us to talk more about such women issues as pregnancy speaks to an unfortunate paradox that we ourselves created for society, culture and politics.  She clarifies the message perfectly: It is illegal to discriminate against pregnancy, not to talk about it.  But law and policy, I daresay, have positively shut people up.  Interviewer Nina Easton admitted that she was afraid to disclose at her workplace that she was pregnant, and did all she could to hide symptoms of nausea.  I like the fact that `Lean In encourages us to put tough issues on the table, because while conversation will not guarantee satisfaction or resolution, it is a necessary condition for such.  Clarification and reassurance are, in turn, crucial for initiating such conversation.  

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD 

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