Whether you love them or hate them, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer have ignited a spirited conversation about women and work, especially with regard to getting to that executive suite.
IWF’s Sabrina Schaeffer explored the subject of why Mayer drives lefty feminists nuts in an article in Forbes, and today Charlotte Allen reviews (“Do As I Do, Not As I Say”)Sandberg’s book Lean In for the Wall Street Journal. It would be wrong to say that Sandberg drives Charlotte nuts, but Charlotte definitely lobs a few in Sandberg's direction.
The subject of why there are fewer female CEOs is a hot button issue. Movement feminists blame the “glass ceiling,” even though most employers go out of their way to recruit women. Charlotte seems to have started reading Lean In with the hope that Sandberg would provide a more realistic answer. Charlotte writes:
For one thing—and this is the most interesting part of Ms. Sandberg's book—it seems that few young women who earn high-end business-school degrees give any serious thought to how a business actually operates. She describes a speech that she gave at Harvard Business School in 2011. During the question-and-answer session afterward, the male students asked such questions as "What did you learn at Google that you are now applying at Facebook?" and "How do you run a platform company and ensure stability for your developers?"
The female students asked such questions as "How can I get a mentor?"—the "professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming," as Ms. Sandberg puts it. Her advice: If you want a mentor, impress a higher-up with how good you are at doing your job. She is similarly dismayed by a young woman at Facebook who asked her advice about how to "balance work and family"—even though the young woman wasn't even married. "If current trends continue," Ms. Sandberg told the business-school students, "fifteen years from today, about one-third of the women in this audience will be working full-time and almost all of you will be working for the guy you are sitting next to."
All this could make for a fascinating exploration of the differences in the mental makeup of men and women. One might think the fact that the majority of women with top-drawer M.B.A.s would rather not take on the time-devouring stress of running a large business enterprise might indicate something more generally about women and their desires, and men and theirs.
But Ms. Sandberg interprets the facts she describes in a different way. …
Unfortunately, according to Charlotte, Sandberg indulges in the usual blame game—“society” sends women all the wrong messages—and thinks that the only difference between men and women is that men can’t breastfeed. Yet she advocates special help from both government and employers. “In Ms. Sandberg's ideal world,” Allen writes, "half our institutions are run by women and half our homes are run by men."
Mona Charen is also critical of Sandberg. In a review entitled “Women Troubles,” Charen charges that Sandberg urges women to put career before families:
Though she denies that she is judging any woman’s decisions, and acknowledges that she struggles with the work/family balance every day, there is a planted assumption in her advice to women that work should prevail over family. Noting the small numbers of women in top executive positions at Fortune 500 firms, Sandberg says, “The problem, I am convinced, is that women are dropping out.”
There is no doubt that women drop out, though Sandberg neglects to consider the 30 percent of small-business owners who are women. Many more women than men prefer part-time work or no work when their children are young. There is doubt as to whether this constitutes a problem. Women students at Yale Law School, for example, have published a guide to top law firms that rates them on family-friendliness. As students, these women, who can certainly command some of the highest salaries in the American economy, are thinking ahead about finding workplaces that permit flexibility.