I just discovered a LinkedIn affinity group called "Glass ceilings, Sticky Floors," which has a charter to promote women leaders:
Exploring strategies that will succeed in promoting women leaders: this group is for anyone who has an interest in finding ways to dissolve real or perceived glass ceilings, and to help women who are limiting themselves to get unstuck. What should Governments, regulatory bodies, companies, ambitious/talented women, and men do to create progress? Insights on the problems to be overcome, with emphasis on suggestions about how to successfully overcome them, will be welcomed.
Isn't that a great name? Of course, I thought at first the "Sticky Floors" part was about how things look a home after you've been on the road for a couple of weeks, but even so, count me in!
One of the first posts I found on the group was a link to this Ted talk by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She has a very interesting perspective, and suggests three things ambitious women can do:
- Sit at the table
- Make your partner a real partner
- Don't leave before you leave
I do recommend you watch the talk in full, because it is great, and easily watchable in a short time. I like the second and third points, which roughly address the domestic framework around the "sticky floor" part of the concept--we all need to work to even out the "chores" load at home, if we all want to achieve equally at work, and it's not a good idea to mentally check out of work in preparation for the new baby until you're, say, having the type of sex life that might lead to a new baby. (I personally recommend working full throttle until just before you go into labor, and I have a former colleague who actually finished a major client meeting at 5pm, and walked over to the hospital to give birth at 6:30, but that might be extreme for some).
As a confirmed and successful chore-shirker whose youngest child is 16, however, I find Sheryl's first point to be the most thought-provoking and the most interesting. What she says is that women need to go ahead and claim their power, and claim their place at the table, even knowing that in our society, it will make people like them less. Sheryl recounts studies showing that women as well as men will increasingly give women full credit for their accomplishments, but where the accomplished man becomes MORE likeable, the more he achieves, the accomplished woman becomes LESS likeable.
I just made the chart up, (don't blame Sheryl for this!) but I'm thinking it could be about right--at first the guy is being annoying and aggressive, so people don't like him, and the woman is trying stuff out, but people are okay with it because she's a nice person. But people don't think either of them will really succeed. Then, as the guy succeeds, people like him, and as the woman succeeds, people start making comments about how bitchy or political she is.
But here's where Sheryl goes where I've never seen any woman go before. Instead of shouting about how unfair it is that society works this way, she says women need to pull up their socks and go for it anyway. That's what we need to tell ourselves, and that's what we need to tell our sons and daughters. Go ahead and do stuff even if you pay a social price for it.
I'm really still trying to get my head around this, since I typically try to avoid trouble by wrapping everything I do in eight layers of self-deprecating humor (and then slip up and get all bossy). But isn't that a wonderful message? Figure out what you want, figure out what is worth while, and do it. Sure, the game is rigged, but plan on that, and go. And maybe the game will change if enough of us get on board. Not just a message for women!