Saturday, 9 March 2013

Lean In Sheryl - relax and take some credit

Unless you've been living in a cave you can't have missed the launch of the Facebook COO's new mandate for social change.  Her guide is billed as a practical guide for women to balance a successful home life, motherhood and a seat in the boardroom.

Sheryl Sandberg photographed at her desk in Facebooks HQ, Palo Alto, California. Portrait by Steve Schofield.
Sheryl looks tense - and no wonder - that perching on the keyboard look is notoriously hard to pull off.  FB too cool for chairs? (Picture copyright The Times)
I should canonize her.  I have set myself almost exactly the same goal.  So why do I feel a bit reluctant to praise her to the skies?

Many people have criticised her for not representing a realistic role model. The assertion is that with millions in the bank and an alpha woman lifestyle -  no 'normal' woman can expect to follow her advice.   But I think this is unfair.    She seems aware that she will be accused of not representing 'real' women, but she is doing her best to encourage real change using the advantages she has.

I like her honesty.  She admits she wants to be liked too much - apparently Zuckerberg told her this would hold her back.  When I suggested finding a man to coach you, I didn't have the wunderkind in mind but if it works - fine.  I recommend finding your husband young - and she agrees, albeit hers is a Silicon Valley CEO.  She firmly encourages women to speak up for themselves and not to fear accusations of bossiness.  I'm on board.

My only problem with "Lean In" is a vague but pervasive sense that it's too managed.  Too manicured.  Her conference room at Facebook is called "Only Good News".  Her "Lean In" Groups are told firmly only to feature positive stories and upbeat messages. She looks tense in the publicity shots - perhaps too worried about criticism.

Sheryl - have confidence.  Relax and lean in to the debate.  Don't worry about making it all positive - use your platform to encourage women from all walks of life to take what they find useful from your book without feeling they need to join a movement.