Before you Lean In, Lighten Up

Earlier this month, Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead and Facebook executive, wrote a Facebook post reflecting on single motherhood. In the post, she recognized that even though she is now a single mom, she is blessed that she has the financial means to provide for her family and the support of family and friends. Sheryl also admitted that in the book, she did not “spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all.” After describing some of the challenges that single moms face, Sheryl went on to celebrate single mothers who despite all of the barriers, “so many give everything they have and go on to raise incredible children.”

Like her book, Sheryl received mixed reactions ranging from words of support to criticism to indignant anger with some calling her fake and a sham. How did what appeared to be a humble, thoughtful moment of introspection and celebration become an opportunity to become so critical by taking personal jabs at someone?

It was through her experiences as a woman leader in the workplace that Sheryl wrote Lean In. It is also through the experience of losing her husband that Sheryl recognized the difficulties of being a single mother. In retrospect, Sheryl perceives that she could have addressed single women more in her book.

There is a scene in the movie Selma in which Martin Luther King explains to the two young activists that he is not trying to take over what they are doing and that his purpose there is to bring awareness to the public, media and government. I am not likening Sheryl to Martin Luther King. I am giving you an example of how different individuals contribute to bringing awareness to a cause. As someone who has a large public following, Sheryl is able to raise national awareness of the plight of single mothers in the workplace and the need for change within organizations, society and government.

Consider Sheryl’s intentions. What is her message in the post? Give people the benefit that their intentions are genuine. Don’t be quick to judge or become deeply offended every time someone fails to address a part of the conversation you feel strongly about or attack them when they admit they may have erred. People tend to share based on their experiences and may unintentionally overlook a particular view. Maybe that missed view is your purpose and platform on which to speak.

Reflection:

If the circumstances were turned around and you admitted a mistake, how would you like to be treated?

Founder | Phenomenal Image
Nancy Gettridge is founder and principal of Phenomenal Image.  Her passion is helping aspiring women achieve their dream careers (Her guilty pleasures are playing Design Home, reading and suspense movies).  Nancy frequently writes about gender bias in the workplace. Key topics include career development and strategy, leadership, and overcoming workplace issues.
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