I am not your average CEO. I often bring my three young children to work with me, and I encourage my employees to do the same. As a business leader in the male-dominated technology field, I have created my own image of what a female CEO should look like.
In “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emphasizes that while women represent more than half of college graduates today, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and business. She argues that women hold themselves back in their careers and advises them on how to keep up with their male counterparts.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Sandberg’s argument that we need to continue to fight to decrease the gender gap in leadership roles in corporate America, I have some reservations about her overall strategy to accomplish it. Sandberg argues that women need to play into workplace norms, and play hard. She believes that women should accommodate the office culture and do whatever it takes to succeed at work — regardless of their personal lives.
I admire her tenacity, and admit that this strategy has worked very well for her. However, I believe there is a better way to approach the gender gap and advance women in leadership roles.
Working moms should support a new type of feminism. I greatly admire and respect the feminist movement of the 70’s and 80’s that changed the landscape for working women. These women worked tirelessly to help highlight how bad working conditions were for women and how much discrimination existed in the workplace. Without them, women wouldn’t have the rights they have today.
But what they worked so hard for manifested into women behaving like men in the office. Case in point, this is also the time that women’s power suits became popular, which were women-sized versions of the suits worn by men. To me, this epitomizes the changes we need to institute today to advance women in leadership.
Let’s get beyond acting like men in order to get ahead, and emphasize how our differences make us incredible assets.
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