Lean In By Sheryl Sandberg: Working Women’s Bible
A few weeks back, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg only to realize how everything she talks about is true, so very true. Yes, more so in the context of Multinationals which don't consider investing in women worth their while. Every day something happens which reaffirms this. Almost every single day.
It is so hard to be a working woman and climb up the ladder. The prejudices, too many. The system skewed against us, so much. It is even harder to be a working woman and a mother, for very few companies help women balance this. As Sheryl Sandberg says, too few workplaces offer the flexibility and access to child care and parental leave that are necessary for pursuing a career while raising children.
As I write this post, a friend, a woman friend of mine, has been overlooked for an Onsite opportunity. She sits at her cubicle wondering what the point of working so hard is when there's no acknowledgement of that. It's unfair and sad because she reaches office on time, works on all the modules, works hard too. She reviews the work of the others in her team. In fact, works more than she probably should. They even rely on her for status calls with the onsite team. They depend on her for everything technical. But when it comes to opportunity, they overlook her. What is even worse than unfair in this case is that they have chosen a person who knows nothing about the modules. The irony in all this is that she is supposed to train him too before he travels because he has no clue what is to be done there. To add to that, he is not even from the project. And no he didn't even have a Visa prior to the decision being made. So, on being asked to ready him for a job that she herself can do exceptionally well, she wonders if this is all because she is a woman.
Well, unfortunately, my friend, it probably is.
This is what happens in the offices today. Yes, it does. And this again reminds me of what Sheryl Sandberg says - The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.
I'm in between projects now, looking for a new project. I cannot begin to tell you how worried I am about the kind of project I will find. How will I manage the time? Will they understand that I can only work from 9 to 5 at the office and then connect from home if needed? Will they understand this is because I also have an infant to drop and pick up from the crèche? Will they even allow me to work from home?
How will I work and balance my life as a full-time mother with policies that were clearly made without thinking about working mothers? Will I have to leave my job, after all, giving up my financial security and the happiness that comes with it? Will I just become another woman adding to the statistic of women before me who had to give up their careers on reaching the middle management level? Will I just be another casualty of an apathetic establishment?
I don't have my parents here so I cannot even leave my daughter behind. And I also don't want to make them do what is basically my job. So, again the question arises, is it absolutely not possible to balance the role of a mother and a working woman? Why is it so hard to make policies that aid women? Why don't the folks in human resources that I reach out to remember that I am human too not just a resource?
Why do I feel that only some pledge for parity while the rest don't even give a hoot, yes women included? I don't understand why women who reach the higher positions after making countless sacrifices don't do anything about this system which chokes women. Why don't they do anything when we are forced to drop out of the race, one after another like toppling dominoes? Why?
Is it because as Sheryl says once a woman achieves success, particularly in a gender-biased context, her capacity to see gender discrimination is reduced? I hope to God that's not true.
I'm trying really hard to Lean In, to work and at the same time be a mother as well. But I'm choking with the unnecessary things I need to worry about thanks to non-existent policies or the existence of policies that make life harder for a working mother. I'm good at my work, if not very good at least good but still, I feel frustrated trying to convince someone that my work won't be affected if I don't sit at the desk 10 hours daily. I need the flexibility which no one is willing to offer and it is affecting me. I feel depressed, anxious and upset. How long will I be able to carry on this way, I don't really know. Is this how companies suffocate women out of the workforce?
It is still very hard for us women to make a name for ourselves. You need to be in our shoes to understand. Hence, feminism, the movement, is needed today as well because the fight for equality is clearly still on, still very much on.
Well, while I search the answers to the questions bothering me, while I continue my fight, while I sway between desperation and frustration, I want to share some quotes from Lean In with you. These are quotes which spoke to me, got me thinking and must have also spoken to millions of women worldwide. They make me realize I'm not the only woman facing this and that I'm not imagining things. These are quotes through which she speaks for all of us. So, here they are.
A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.
When a girl tries to lead, she is often labelled bossy. Boys are seldom called bossy because a bot taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend.
The effort to combine career and motherhood may be particularly fraught. The stakes are high, as they may expect nothing less than perfection, both at home and in the workplace. When they fall short of lofty ideals, they may retreat altogether - from the workplace to home or vice versa.
Mothers don't want to be perceived as less dedicated to their jobs than men or women without family responsibilities. We overwork to overcompensate.
For many men, the fundamental assumption is they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.
Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don't have real choice.
The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Men of all ages must commit to changing the leadership ratios.
There is always an opportunity cost, and I don't know any woman who feels comfortable with all her decisions. Too many work standards remain inflexible and unfair, often penalizing women with children. Too many talented women try their hardest to reach the top and bump up against systemic barriers, we need more women in power. When leadership insists that these policies (to help women) change, they will.
More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment of all women.
This blog was originally published on Random Thoughts- Naba