Sheryl Sandberg is 43, and she’s worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to Time magazine.
That’s probably why the cover of that publication, with a photo of Ms. Sandberg, reads “Don’t hate her because she’s successful.”
It used to be “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
Seems we women run the risk of hating successful and/or beautiful women.
Maybe also those with more interesting lives.
Or more attractive friends.
Or better partners.
Lots of room for hate! Why do we hate pretty, accomplished, successful women, when we could be learning from them?
Ms. Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and has just written a book advising women to “lean in” to difficult jobs, challenges, opportunities.
And she’s laying the blame for not having done that … at least partly on women.
Well, that’s an old theme: women are responsible for their own problems. Don’t you just hate that?
More hate … less understanding.
I’m old enough to remember fighting for women’s rights – just for equality of opportunity and pay. I was the leading fundraiser west of the Mississippi River for the failed campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in 1981. And I remember asking for money to air a commercial that did nothing more than read the amendment – so people could see that it had nothing to do with unisex bathrooms or drafting women into the military. The substance was that equality of opportunity, under the law, shall not be denied by the United States, or by any state, on account of sex. Read that sentence to people on the street, and most agreed with it … but the amendment failed when not even all women could step forward in support of it.
Now here we are, these years later, with Ms. Sandberg writing that we women are underestimating our abilities. “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
I think she’s got a point.
Rather than hate her for her accomplishments, for her Harvard MBA (full disclosure: I have one of those, too), for her beauty, perhaps we can see her as holding a mirror up to ourselves, and helping us to look at what we are doing – or not doing!
I’m an Executive Coach and a sales trainer. Working at the executive level, I meet confident, accomplished women. But at the middle management level, especially lately, I meet women who seem to want to hold back.
It’s as if they never want to see a finger pointed at them, saying YOU, YOU are the person who MADE A MISTAKE.
But playing not to lose, of course, is a far cry from playing to win.
Are you hiding, afraid that someone will disagree with you, and you won’t be strong enough to hold your point of view? Are you stifling yourself because, at root, you think people don’t like opinionated, forceful women?
I think people don’t like pushy people. Opinions – especially those held by people who can listen to others’ points of view – are often welcomed, and energizing!
Are you afraid to express your opinions?
In a book I’ve just written, I included a piece about the current phenomenon, especially among members of Generation Y or Millennials (people born in the 1980s or 1990s), to respond to “How are you?” with the phrase “No worries!” Is that a fervent hope – that there’s no conflict, no confrontation, no disagreement? If so, perhaps withholding opinions is consistent with that. But I don’t think it’s going to get you very far!
Having spent nearly two decades in Corporate America before forming my own consulting and coaching practice, and now having coached hundreds of businesspeople of both genders in 52 countries around the world, I think the keys to success are:
- To be informed,
- To put forth opinions,
- To listen to those whose opinions are likely to be informed and worthwhile,
- To take action and
- To monitor your results, making adjustments when you’ve fallen short.
These days, though, too many people lean away from taking a position – the opposite of Ms. Sandberg’s advice to “lean in.”
She has two children. Apparently, a loving spouse. She’s worked hard, and she’s accomplished a lot. She’s quite pretty. And, by all indications, she’s smart as a whip.
But don’t let that stop you. I think she’s very much worth reading.
Rather than hate her … think about her opinions, and form your own. Ask yourself whether you’re fully taking your own shot. Have you jumped into “the game” of working … or are you sitting on the sidelines? Sheryl Sandberg may just be the boost you need to get moving.