Sheryl Sandberg’s Advice on Embracing ‘And’ for Working Mothers

As momentum grows around gender diversity issues, it is heartening to see mainstream media begin to reflect that women want coverage on issues that are important to them, rather than be relegated to the Style or Weekend pages of most major newspapers. The Atlantic online magazine is now offering an entire subsection devoted to issues with a gendered spin.

The new channel; ‘Sexes’ highlights everything from sexual violence in India to the increase in female representation of Hollywood producers, directors and even interesting characters. I was struck by a recent article on Sheryl Sandberg’s upcoming book; Lean In where she encourages men to recognise women beyond the binary choice of devoted mother or consummate professional.

As Gayle Tzemach Lemmon wrote in her piece Sheryl Sandberg’s Radically Realistic ‘And’ Solution for Working Mothers:
Somehow, today—even while women learn and earn in greater numbers than ever before—the idea that women live in an “either/or” world stubbornly hangs on. A woman can either be a mother or a professional. Career-driven or family-oriented. A great wife or a great worker. Not both. In other words, the choices are Donna Reed and Murphy Brown (pre-baby). Precious few Clair Huxtables out there.

That is the challenge Sheryl Sandberg’s book sets out to tackle. In a women-in-the-workplace discussion consisting mostly of “either/ors,” her argument in the upcoming book Lean In injects the word “and” into the conversation in a way that urges women to bring their “whole selves” to work. Choice is good, and so is aspiration. Ambition is great, and so is telling your boss that you want to have children. Working hard at your job is important, and so is finding a way to leave the office early enough to be home for dinner with your kids.”

In my own work with male professionals, I am pleased to see how many men understand that ‘and’ is the new normal for most women. Yet progress remains elusive with others who struggle to see why a woman should be able to have both a top career and a family – in exactly the same way as men.

Image courtesy of Reuters

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