Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg arrives at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

You can’t help but like Sheryl Sandberg, and you can’t help but enjoy her sizzling social phenom, “Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead.

Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, has a winning personality — smart, nice, fun, strong — and her book has just hit #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. Her April 4 talk with WBUR’s Robin Young in the 440-seat main hall of Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre is long since sold out, and her TEDTalk has been viewed more than two million times.

Her push for women to work full-time in high-powered jobs, even through motherhood, seems to willfully ignore this fact: A great many of us don’t want to, not when our children are young.

Her central point is that more women need to aspire to leadership roles and “lean in” — try harder — to get there, and it carries special weight coming from a woman whom Fortune Magazine named the fifth most powerful in the world — above Michelle Obama.

But Sandberg has a central blind spot, a striking omission.

Her push for women to work full-time in high-powered jobs, even through motherhood, seems to willfully ignore this fact: A great many of us don’t want to, not when our children are young. We want — often desperately — to cut back. If we can possibly afford it.

And, in my experience at least, our greatest obstacle is not any girly self-doubt. It is a rigid workplace culture that won’t let us ratchet down. It is employers who do not offer flexible alternatives that drive parents out, by offering only a binary choice between full-time-plus or the highway.

Sandberg never even mentions that surveys have found repeatedly that working mothers heavily prefer to work part-time. A couple of data points:

From a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center: “Most working mothers (62%) say that they would prefer to work part time.” But “The reality for today’s working moms does not reflect their preferences: 74% work full time while only 26% work part time. Only about one-in-ten moms say having a mother who works full time is the ideal situation for a child.”

A similar Pew poll that came out last month found a significant rise in mothers who prefer full-time work, apparently influenced by hard economic times. Still, Pew reported, “Part-time work remains the most appealing option for working mothers.”

But to work part-time, a parent needs a workplace that will allow it.

Sandberg describes waddling into the Google headquarters when she was heavily pregnant and demanding a special parking spot for pregnant workers. But nowhere does she describe using her position of power to help mothers — or fathers — get more flexible or reduced schedules.

On the contrary, the success stories she shares tend to involve persuading mothers to work more — including a mother of 14-month-old twins who was working only about one-third time. Sandberg urged the woman to partner more equally with her husband, in order to take a “full-time job with frequent travel.”

(Alfred A. Knopf)

(Alfred A. Knopf)

Every discussion of this fraught issue has to include all sorts of disclaimers: Women are all different. So are men. So are children. Some jobs can be flexible or part-time, some cannot. Some kids need more than others. Different set-ups work best for different people, at different times.

But in the face of such complexity, the American way is usually to turn to a simple ideal: Choice. We need various options — not a single model of all-in or all-out.

I quit The New York Times in 2002, after having my first child. I’d proposed giving up my staff position and going onto a contract to work three days a week from Boston. They said no. I could be full-time on staff in Manhattan or a pure freelancer paid (very modestly) per piece.

That wasn’t a real choice, at least not for me. I know many unspeakably great mothers who work full-time. I just couldn’t do it myself. Couldn’t. I was stunned by how strongly I felt that, down to my marrow, with the force of a moral imperative. I needed to earn a living, but if at all possible, I was determined to work part-time. I was lucky enough to land a three-day-a-week job at the Boston Globe that lasted through several years and a second child.

It hurt to leave the lofty Times, but I have not a single regret about that decision. I only regret that I had to make it, that I faced such a stark either-or.

Sandberg would have had me lean in — stay full-time, delegate more baby care, negotiate better, push harder. But I’ll go to my grave believing that the flaw was not in me as much as it was in a system built for men with housewives to raise the children and care for the elders. And that culture still clearly dominates today.

I’ll go to my grave believing that the flaw was not in me as much as it was in a system built for men with housewives to raise the children and care for the elders.

I hear about other bosses who force part-timers to work full-time or quit; who lay off mothers in job-shares first; who offer miserly contracts to staffers who need family-friendly schedules. And I know the jobs in question. They could in fact be done more flexibly — and possibly even better, with happier workers.

These days, my own story ends very happily indeed at WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, working half-time in a successful job-share created by an innovative boss who has my eternal gratitude.

But in the bigger picture, what we really need is the anti-Sheryl-Sandberg: A corporate leader who models the understanding that working parents carry double responsibilities. That they deserve support for their choices rather than urgings to try harder when the problem isn’t effort, it’s the limited time in the day.

That means a boss who will not say, “Just lean in like I did,” but rather, “Tell us what we can best do for you, so that you can do your best for us.”


Tags: Books, Family, Gender

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Laura Lovell Inglese

    Thank you Carey Goldberg for pointing out the complexities of the situation and the obstacles that some women face in getting what THEY want.

  • Becky Lynn

    I have worked in administration at a university for almost 20 years, mostly because they have evolved as I have evolved. When I had my second child, they let me go (very) part-time. When my kids had crazy preschool and kindergarten schedules, they let me adjust my hours. As my kids got older, they allowed me to add hours. Starting in June and now that my kids are almost in high school, I am back to managing. THAT is an employer that understands the complexities of a woman who desires to nuture her children and make a stimulating and vibrant contribution to society.

  • Marion Williams-Bennett

    Agreed, thank you for this and for beautifully demonstrating that for some of us, leaning in is not the right solution. Each woman’s situations is unique, and having a corporate culture that supports that diversity is what can enable all women to choose what is right for them while still contributing to the workplace and their own growth.

  • EMCS

    We aren’t going to get to a world where 50% of the population “at the top” are women as long as women don’t feel it’s necessary. Many women with children prefer to be with their children throughout their childhood. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, employers who are flexible and look at results rather than schedules will help keep us on the rise. I’ve been in both places and I still believe raising children is a full time job at least in the early years. There’s nothing wrong with that either. We just need to be able to jump back in without being in the dark about technology, market changes, etc., This is something we need to do ourselves, as long as we plan to jump back on the train.

  • Megan McHugh

    I completely agree – working full-time (and as you point out, “full-time-plus” is more accurate) and raising a family are often incompatible. I have no desire to follow Ms. Sandberg’s advice to overextend myself. At 28, I’m not at all ready to start a family because my partner and I have limited workplace flexibility. While I’m able to leave the office at 5:00 most days, I’ve been told this hard-stop sends a message of half-hearted investment in my career. It’s a constant source of anxiety. Given this, I feel a request for a parent-friendly schedule will comprise my advancement prospects.

  • durs

    Very well said. Thank you! I chose my child over a full time job with frequent travel and have no regrets. Sheryl Sandberg was lucky to have children without disabilities, but views her luck as a result of her own hard work. Very blind.

  • K Casey

    This is a really disappointing article. In the first chapter of the book, Sheryl clearly states that working isn’t always the best option for some people – that we all have different desires, life situations, job allowances etc. The point of the book isn’t too discourage women from staying home with their children – it’s to encourage more women to realize they might actually **have** a choice. To find “a corporate leader who models the understanding that working parents carry double responsibilities”…either all leaders need to immediately become more empathic (not likely) or like the commenter below, Becky Lynn, they will likely be the people who knows what it’s like. It’s going to be a slow progress, but it means both women who stayed home with their children returning to the working world to provide younger mothers and fathers with more manageable jobs — and younger parents who choose to work being more vocal about their needs.

    • Guest

      I agree K Casey, the author of this article should note, that although she couldn’t stay at the NYTimes, it seems she has the best of both worlds now. Sometimes you might need to go part time (down the jungle gym) at a lesser job to then go across and up the jungle gym.

  • Alyson

    I’m a SAHM. I think another big problem is that the years that we stay at home are treated as though we’ve been doing nothing. eating bonbons or the like. I’ll tell you right now, I WORK. Every single day I work harder than I’ve ever worked for pay. I don’t get time off (although my husband does help out a lot). I’m on the job 24/7. I’m raising another person, a responsible human being, a caring and compassionate daughter. But, if and when I return to paid employment, I will get no credit for that. It will be as if the years are just a big empty space.

    • Alyson_gr

      I totally agree with you. I’m also a SAHM and I have 3 children. I have more education than my successful CEO husband, and I had a “promising” career pre-children.

      In addition to the “opt out” years, when – if – we can return to paid employment, it will be at a much lower level (pay-wise and seniority-wise) that when we left. Future career progression will not be assured. No skills that we have acquired in our 24/7 always-on parenting time will be recognized. It’s just a yawning gap. We ‘opted out’ instead of ‘leaning in’.

      Really?? Surely experience that demonstrates the ability to “work well with un-cooperative team members on complicated issues, under stress to meet critical deadlines” should include the experience of helping a 7th grader complete coordinate geometry homework whilst persuading a cranky 5 yr old to finish a plate of ‘not favorite’ food whilst keeping to a schedule to pick up another sibling from after-school that takes into account rush hour traffic made three times worse by the messy aftermath of a snowstorm – to return to start the bed time/dinner time routine…

      Yet there are no systems in place to quantify and value these myriad experiences. Worse still, skills that parenting teaches us in spades – like patience and compassion – are sorely needed, yet rarely codified into job descriptions or rewarded in companies. There are no job titles, professional awards, speaking engagements, press coverage, public affirmation or public plaudits for stay-at-home moms (and dads). That time just shows up as a big, empty space.

      Never mind the corporate world, in society in general, when asked the casual question “what do you do” our response of “I’m at home with my kids”, will most often cause others to politely nod, mutter some platitude like “it’s the most important job in the world” and then look over our shoulders for someone else more “interesting” (read professionally accomplished) to talk to. CV screening software does the same, but in glorious and distant silence, as it skims over the resumes of a skilled and driven sub-set of the workforce that could be improving the productivity of employers everywhere.

      We need to stop fixating on who is right in the mommy wars, on who made the right choice. There is no right choice – just good enough, just the best that we can do.

      We need society to fundamentally rethink how to value parenting, how to measure what it teaches us, and how to take those enriching (and frustrating) experiences and plug them into a workplace that has equitable, flexible options for all-in, not-in, and everything in between.

      Most importantly, whatever choice we make now, it should be possible to move much more fluidly between choices. Situations change, and how we work around our very real and important parental responsibilities should be able to change too.

    • Pointpanic

      YOu may be a SAHM but Sheryl Sandberg is a SHAM.

    • Julia Gulia

      No one is saying that your work isn’t worth anything – that might be a personal complex that you have. Where are you reading that people are downgrading your work?

      • Alyson_gr

        It may be a personal complex, but not valuing non-paid work experience (wherever it is gained) is unfortunately part of a much wider trend and a structural issue with the workplace. I am saying that there are no formal mechanisms in place to quantify valuable learning garnered from parenting – and no way for companies to value it in their assessment of potential candidates. This is made worse by software that scans resumes. Finding and employing the best brains, whether they have long and distinguished resumes, or have taken a non professional path for a year or a decade or more, could help improve productivity – which is a hard metric and something that would be good for the economy. My point is that by only looking in the usual places, and not thinking more laterally and creatively, we are missing an opportunity to use greater diversity of experience in the support of industry, and that consequently, society is missing out.

      • MelissaJane

        Julia, with all due respect, are you serious? I think it’s pretty well documented that those years spent at home are not valued when women return to the workforce, that potential employers are troubled by long gaps between paid jobs, and that there is a general assumption that one is out of touch with the current workplace and has lost ground when compared to potential employees who have not taken time off to raise their children. This is hardly a problem Alyson is making up or imagining.

    • Kristin

      You may be working full-time and caring for someone else, but that work isn’t applicable to a paid job if you’re not using the same skills. I stay home too, and I’m in no way using the same skills to care for my son that I did as a software business analyst. If I decide to return to work in a few years I will be out of practice and need to get back up to speed.

      • alyson_gr

        Kristin – you are spot on. There are definitely ‘hard’ skills that will need to be refreshed that are directly related to your specific field – say software. But I believe that there are also other, ‘softer’ skills that can be built in a variety of contexts – like patience, negotiation, scheduling, working under pressure, to name a few. I believe that business could do a better job of recognizing that all parents (working and at home) are building those skills at work and at home. We just don’t have any way to document and recognize time spent building these skills at home, and it is frustrating for those who are at home full time (for whatever reason) to feel that this time is a blank space on a resume

        • EB

          Oh but a working at home parent CAN quantify “a job well done”, I say if corporations/employers want to see one’s accomplishments, just bring along one’s grown children to the interview–I would match that “product” head to head with any company’s bottom line or any marketing firm’s ability to show how their work has improved another company’s ROI.

  • afischer

    Here, here. I’d like to add that workplace culture also needs to reflect the changing dynamics of modern families where men play a much larger role in parenting than in previous generations. Workplaces needs to recognize this cultural shift and offer flexibility to working moms and dads. However, that’s all highly unlikely considering the increasing number of layoffs despite the record breaking profits many companies are churning out.

  • Liz in MA

    Appreciate your message and living this conundrum daily, wondering if I should keep going full-time with my grade school kids (who have massively busy sports and activity schedules), not only for the time and the commitment juggling act, but also for my own professional reward. I am lucky to have a full-time job that is based either at my home office or (when I am required) to travel….however the job is an income that makes a significant difference to my family, so most days I am grateful for it, but I would prefer part-time work to be engaged in more fulfilling work that involves my kids’ interests and time we can share together. I do not believe this is a simple solution for working moms or dads. But, I do know of some consulting firms who are adapting a flexible approach to personalized career paths, in response to the costs of losing key talent….they will allow employees to “dial up” or “dial down” career intensity to meet personal life needs, supporting some job security for reasonable periods of time. The issue I believe is that more and more corporations, organizations and employers in every sector need to recognize — just as Carey puts it here — that they will get the best from their workforce when they can reward and support employees more holistically as people who have changing lives, and less like employee robots.

  • Melissa Orlov

    I agree completely with Goldberg – we would all benefit (men and women alike) from having choices so that our work and family priorities can be aligned in the way that works best both for us and our workplace. I started my own consulting practice in 1995 after I realized I had not seen my 6 month old second child awake for over 3 weeks…that wasn’t who I wanted to be. Adjusted my schedule to about half time over the year and ended up earning more money, as well. I have not had a corporate job since then. This is not a reflection of whether I would be a good employee for a corporation or whether I could lead (I was a rising young VP when I changed direction). Simply that I believe that I contribute best in a certain set of circumstances that don’t include being miserable because the people I care most about are the people I interact with least.

    Several women friends, after observing my increased happiness and improved work fulfillment, followed my lead. Not a single one of them has regretted it and several companies lost really great employees as a result. We need to be able to understand that great work and great ideas often stem from good mental health. In today’s all or nothing work environment, it’s still just too hard to find that without someone telling you you aren’t doing it “right.” I appreciate Sandberg’s contribution for those women who really want to get to the top, and particularly appreciate her message to young women – don’t opt out until you need to. But prefer an approach that says “the way to fix this is to recognize that we need a range of options.”

  • bck2bscs

    Thank you – we need more such articles. We do NOT want to MISLEAD the next generation of women and men. We all, irrespective of gender, should be spending more time finding our own individual strengths, weaknesses and priorities, being true to themselves, figuring out what kind of lifestyle suits our own personality and family, and pace our lives accordingly.

    I was with Sheryl Sandberg after her TED Talk of December 2010, but turned into one of her critics this year. In fact, as simple a change as the title and target audience of her book would probably turn me back into being her supporter.
    My suggestions for a title:
    “(How I navigated) The Corporate Jungle Gym”
    “Why working parents do not want it all”
    “Gender stereotypes and corporate life”
    “How I became a leader”
    “My relationship with power”
    “The work-life balance myth”
    “My experiences with gender bias”
    “Women and leadership”
    “Working parents and their rights: Is FMLA enough?”
    “Universal preschool and onsite childcare”

  • Edward Lincoln

    Sandberg is an obsessive workaholic who has trouble grasping the fact that career advancement isn’t everyone’s absolute top priority…as are most CEOs of either gender. The difference is obsessively workaholic ambitious men have traditionally married women with less “high end” career aspirations…the doctor married a nurse, the CEO a secretary. This let them focus on their career while someone else handled the parenting. Things can never really be equal between the genders until ambitious women marry unambitious men who take on a “house husband role”. Until then, many women will have to choose between not having kids, risking their children not getting the attention they need, or compromising their career. When two super ambitious people decide to start a family, it isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    Oh, and it should be pointed out that plenty of people will never reach the top spot no mater how hard they work. Many sacrifice home life without becoming CEOs. This is one of the elite myopically talking to other members of the elite, not a set of principles for society as a whole.

  • Natalie

    What I would like to know is how many women at Facebook Sheryl ACTIVELY seeks to promote to high corporate positions. How many women is she inviting to the table? How many women is she partnering with to give them the opportunity to “Lean In” at the table she so reveres? I get that not everyone seeks the CEO seat at the table. I understand that not everyone wants to stay home full time. Sandberg should be championing the rights of women to have the choice to pursue a balanced life, be it CEO (with onsite childcare that is affordable and accessible for EVERYONE) or flexible work schedules for the women that WANT to be full time mothers and still contribute to the workforce during the formative years they want to be involved in. What Sandberg fails to recognize is that she is part of the problem when she deems stay at home parents are selling themselves short by not sitting at the Boardroom table and choosing to sit at the dinner table.

  • Mtn Woman

    How about having NO Children in a world 4 Billion over populated? Who is writing this crap? None of my friends have children and we know we are the smart ones, as our diplomas prove. Thank goodness I am too old to have children today; therefore I do not have to listen to them or their whining mothers today. Do the math.

    • MthTch

      Your diplomas don’t prove anything if this is how you are responding. Many of us who have advanced degrees have families. Many of us chose to step away from our lucrative careers to raise our children. You and your friends will never know the rewards of raising a child. Of course it’s hard. Of course there are times that one might want to run back to work to get a break. I’m sure you weren’t always easy on your parents when you were growing up. But the many moments of wonder, amazement, pride, and incredible love have no comparison in the corporate world.
      Pretty ironic. I did do the math. I came home, raised my kids, and now that my youngest are in high school, I am a math teacher! I do the math every day!!

  • Janelle Mass McCreary


    • Female Designer

      I think this Carey misses the point – we need more men in the workplace to help women stay in the workplace. And we need more men to do their share of child-rearing and housework. Women carry too much of the burden in life and ‘cope’.

      If you want to make child-care your full-time role – that’s fine. But, for women who want to get back into the workplace after having a child, wouldn’t it be nice to say to your female boss ‘Can I have p/t work till my child is (whatever)?’ rather than asking a male boss and they automatically say ‘No’?

      Until we ask for change, we won’t get change and men will keep their seats at board-level, wondering where all the talented women have gone.

  • Steph von Trapp

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Carey Goldberg!!! When I saw Sandberg on 60 minutes I felt as though I was watching a time warped program. I have lived through the 60`s and 70` and women’s lib; I graduated from college in the early 80`s, gunning for a teachingcareer, only to have my first child in 1984. No one ever said to me while on this path, you know… you may want to stay home and raise your child. I ran back to work when my son was 6 weeks old. I couldn’t wait. Then after just 1 week I couldn’t believe that I had left my child for
    someone else to raise. Unfortunately and miraculously when he was 2 months old I had the opportunity to leave my abusive husband and fortunate enough to have a teaching degree and get a job. As a single parent I had no choice but to work and put my son in daycare. Remarried in 1989 I now had the option to
    leave work. I chose to leave my teaching job, my son was in half day kindergarten and I then got pregnant with our second child.

    Staying home and raising your children is not for the
    faint of heart. It is hard, it is boring, it is tearful, it is redundant, it is
    exhausting and that career driven fulfillment is only realized when the child
    graduates from something other than nursery school. However, my husband and I decided that the values our children were going to learn were ones we shared not ones believed by someone else. Money was not abundant but we did what we needed to do.

    Our son is now 28, lives in New York City and works for Lacoste. When he graduated from NYU……I found myself tearfully overwhelmed, and muttering “we did it, we did it!!” We had raised a child and equipped him with the tools now to
    make a life. I hadn’t expected such an amazing feeling. Our daughter 21 will be
    graduating from Castleton State College in Vermont this May. I will arm myself
    with the tissue box that will be needed.

    All along I knew that it was the right thing for me to stay home and raise our children. Part time work was all that I needed to give
    me that immediate gratification that I sometimes craved. Now I am a realtor and
    a horseback riding instructor which I do from our small farm in Rhode Island. I am only 53. I have so many more years left
    on this earth if I want to become a high powered whichamacallit. But Because I left my ‘job’ to ‘stay home with
    the children, I and am now living my dream.
    What saddened me most about Sandberg and her ‘
    lean in’ mantra….was how much she was missing by not just ‘leaning back and
    settling in.’ Anyone can have a high powered career…. not everyone can be a great parent.

  • POintpanic

    Why is “public’ radio allowing a corporate fat cat like Sandberg to be the standard bearer for women in leadership roles? And why does the “anti-Sandberg have to be a “corporate leader”? All this does is generate a system that engenders inequality and poverty.

    • Alyson_gr

      That’s it! The crux of this issue is that this is no plausible soap box for (for example) a stay at home parent to be that standard bearer.

  • Anna

    YES. I’ve been waiting for exactly this perspective! With the “everyone is different” disclaimer firmly in place, I’m often shocked at how narrow this conversation is – as in, did I miss the day when we all got together and defined success, ambition, and fulfillment in exactly the same terms?

  • Bryan

    The truth is a full time employee that is driven is more effective than a part time employee with other priorities. This means the husband or wife must make a life choice. Remember, it is a choice! I know many men who would love the chance to raise their children and let the wife support the home.

    • Alyson_gr

      A CEO once told me that 75% of an excellent worker is better then 100% of a mediocre one. This is as much about the quality of the worker and of his/her outputs, than about the input/ face time.

    • Jenna Smith

      It is a choice. I chose not to have children. Unfortunately, over the years, those women who have focused on their children at the cost of their careers have indirectly harmed my career. Until I hit a certain age employers and clients assumed I might not be committed to their needs or, even worse, might require time off or leave in order to tend to a child, because I am female. My opinion? Make your choice and live with it, but don’t pretend you want a career then do it halfway and make excuses or, worse, look for praise. I have no sympathy for that behavior.

  • Julia Perez

    I agree with the author about work place flexibility for anyone regardless of child situation. I think Sandberg is flawed in thinking we all want her version of success. Who said we want to all become CEO.Look at the price you pay -whether you have children or not. I have a masters degree in electrical engineering, working on my third patent, 18 technical publication and never quit to have twins. Long before the twins, I declined management positions because I wanted to be technical and because travel for work is brutal. Sandberg assumes we want what she wants-this assumption is wrong. Her starting premise is so flawed that it negates the conversation which the author so aptly reflects – work place flexibility is a must for anyone-period.

  • beachgirl47

    I feel blessed that when my mother went to work when my sister and I were children (she had to as my father was ill), she was able to work part-time. I feel blessed that when my children were young I was able to work part-time and my children were cared for by my mother. My husband had a well-paying job and we lived significantly within our means. I now feel blessed that my daughter is able to “job share” and I am able to care for her children.

  • Paul Levinson

    Fine comments here that cover the spectrum. Sandberg’s message is not that radical…it’s been voiced for ~50 years out loud, and for many years quietly and less often before that. Part of Gloria Steinem’s message was what Sandberg has rephrased and, perhaps, enhanced. Mr. Lincoln below says it perfectly – She’s an obsessive workaholic who was fortunate to find the path that matches her energy. She CAN demand a parking spot for pregnant women; she CAN demand that a nursery be built next to her office. She has all sorts of options built into her 7-figure compensation package that mere mortals do not, and it is astoundingly insensitive of her to just gloss over this on the way to the top of the Times bestseller list. All this said, there is no reason corporate America shouldn’t listen to the outcry and change its neanderthal, give them an extra minute and they’ll take an extra 5 hours, ways. All a “common” worker can do is hope to meet a boss who has some sympathy or, dare we hope, empathy. The writer below who says Sandberg has not told anyone how often she is walking her walk, i.e. promoting women who have ridiculous schedules, being flexible with fathers who want to support their wives’ careers, etc., gets it right. Put Facebook’s corporate practices where your wallet is, Sheryl. You’re close to set for life, and good for you for “leaning in” successfully. I’m guessing that if someone demanded that you do that “immediately,” you would have an excuse for why it cannot be implemented in a comprehensive, universal fashion. I’ll pay more attention to Sheryl Sandberg when I hear she is taking on the establishment rather than just joining it and adopting its unfriendly family ways.

  • lcn1216

    Yes! This! Thank you for sharing this piece. I’m so tired of hearing the calls to “lean in!” If you’re a woman who wants to work your way up the corporate ladder, by all means, lean in and go for it. Don’t let self-doubt or anything else hold you back and hopefully Sandberg will inspire you along the way. If you can manage to balance all of that with motherhood, then more power to you.

    If you want to put your career on hold to be a SAHM or a SAHD, then please, lean in to that, too! And don’t feel like you’re selling yourself short in the process. Moms and dads who stay home to raise their children are just as valuable to society as individuals who are successful in business. Raising our future generations is no small feat, after all. Hopefully, more businesses will become more family-flexible for the benefit of ALL workers, be they moms and dads who need and want to be there for their kids or people who aren’t parents but have other family members who require care.

  • Julia Gulia

    I’m devouring Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and I have to
    say, almost every review I’ve read about it has it pegged completely wrong.
    Sandberg wrote this book to say that she understands that not every mother
    wants to “lean in” and ascend to the highest ranks in their career.
    BUT, the harsh reality remains – if women do NOT take these leadership
    positions, if we do NOT reach the highest echelons of power in the same numbers
    as men, nothing is going to change in terms of workplace policies, lack of
    maternity leave, pregnancy/sex discrimination. That’s the point. She’s not
    judging women who don’t feel the same way as she does. But she is saying, get
    in the game, or stop complaining. And I totally agree with her.

  • Philomela

    I actually think it’s this writer who misses the point. I haven’t read the book, but have read about this debate for years (and am now living it with a 16-month-old child). Sandberg advocates women leaning in at work specifically so that corporate structures will be forced to change, and offer more flexible work-life options, including meaningful part-time work. Her credo seems to be that this change will be forced by the women who stay and demand it. When women “opt out” and just leave (whether by “real choice”, or, as Goldberg mentions, because there are no good part-time options and they don’t want to sacrifice parenting), then corporations can simply march on with their patriarchal assumptions (wife at home to take care of kids, no accommodation needed for any parent-worker).

    Of course, not everyone wants to stay on fulltime after becoming a parent, but many do want “on ramps” and part-time work that is worthwhile. When women “choose” to disappear after having a child any leverage in changing the system is simply gone.

    • eSuzy

      You haven’t read the book but you’re telling us what you think she said in it? I did read the book and think Ms Goldberg has a more accurate synopsis of what it is and is not saying …

  • jonb

    What a hypocrite she is. Not only has she had most of her life handed to her she also has a private day care center beside her office.

  • Deb Zoltai

    Carey Goldberg is absolutely spot on.

  • Human Being

    Thank you! I have never regretted the time I spent with my children or my parents.
    I love the work that I do, but nothing is as important in my life as my family.

  • Debbie

    I couldn’t agree more, and was also a casualty of the Family Service Association’s policy of full time or nothing, which I was faced with when my oldest was two. I chose to leave and have never regretted the extra time with children. Though I have also always regretted that I was not allowed to pursue my career on a part time basis. Part time workers almost always work more hours than they’re paid. So job sharing is actually a very workable situation financially. It’s amazing that over thirty years after I had to make a painful choice, women are no further along.

  • Cortney

    I don’t think you have done your research. It seems that what you are advocating for is precisely what Sheryl Sandberg is advocating for. She is bringing awareness to gender biases so that we all can work together to change “the system” – that means, more opportunities for women to hold leadership positions as well as more flexibility in schedules to help women become mothers and care for their children. She doesn’t cite the data that you mention related to women’s contentedness to stay home and care for her children because that is not what her book is about; it is about (and directed toward) women who want to be a mother and an executive. Faulting her for omitting this data would be like faulting the author of a book about running for omitting facts about rowing – the facts about rowing would not appeal to the reader and would therefore hurt the draw of reading about running as well as sales of her book. Please read her book – cover to cover – and then tell me that she is not advocating for exactly what it is that you think she is omitting.

    • careyg

      Dear Cortney — I did read the book cover to cover, otherwise I could not have said that she never actively advocates for flexible schedules, and never mentions having done so at Facebook or Google. But I do take your point: Her book and her message are directed at women who want to lead. The trouble with that is that the vast majority of women — and men — don’t want to lead, we want our leaders to share and model our values…You might want to check out a very interesting post on how convenient Sandberg’s position is for corporations who must prefer ‘Lean In” to “Work/life”:

      • Catherine Prato

        Indeed. Her message is for women who want to lead. And she is clear that she supports people of either gender who don’t want to do that. She is also clear that there are other ways to address the issues of how people get ahead in the corporate world, but this is her take. She bends over backwards, in fact, to make these points and to say that her solution is not the only one for every person or every company. But, in your article you chose to ignore that and mislead everyone who read your article.

  • Gail Giarrusso

    I’x like to talk to her kids.

  • Gail Giarrusso

    My very first thought regarding Sheryl Sandberg was that most women, do not, in fact, want to be like her. I haven’t met her, but don’t really like her take on life and drive.

  • Sheridan

    In the UK where parents have a legal right to request flexible work, just as many mothers do paid work but far more work part-time than full-time. This reflects the preference of most women if given this choice as they have a right to, in the UK

  • Lior Samson

    It is not just many women who may not want to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg advises; some men, too, would prefer the workplace flexibility that Carey Goldberg calls for. Without a doubt, those of us born with a Y-chromosome enjoy unearned privilege in the workplace, but that does not mean that it is easy to strike a balance between a career and relationships. Men who give some priority to home and family, who pursue either part-time work or full-time careers with less than flat-out fervor, also pay a price professionally.

    We all know, deep down, that there are no right answers, only your answers or my answers as we career our way through. But tweet-size imperatives and condensed formulae sure can sell books! Just wait, somebody is probably right now polishing a book manuscript titled “Lean Back.” It will go viral.

  • Ed

    It just too hard to take advice on family-career issues from someone with plenty of financial resources. It she wants to tell us about the days when both she and her husband were struggling to afford a mortgage and had no inlays/grandparents helping them out and had children, then I’ll listen to how they balanced issues.

  • Amanda Nash

    I think this article entirely misses the point of the issue. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if that does as well. The problem is that for women who DO “lean in,” there is still a glass ceiling. If you choose to cut back, devote more of your time to mothering, whatever, that’s your CHOICE. What is NOT your choice is if you work as hard, as much time, with as much dedication, as a man, and STILL you can’t advance. That is the problem.

  • samuelpepys

    Thank you Ms. Goldberg! I’m not a young mother, but am faced with the choice of leaving (for good) a successful career I care about passionately because I can’t handle the health costs of full-time work at 80-100 hours a week. I know many others in my field who have had to leave careers for this reason. The model of the male-with-a-housewife (and little interest in his children) has been defunct for 40 years. It’s long past time to fight that model in workplaces, not to adjust heroically!

  • Kelly Brilliant

    But why should only those w children get these special privileges? Why couldn’t I ask my boss for this kind of dispensation to say write a book or pursue something else i’m passionate about? It seems in your world, child-less people would be discriminated against in terms of work place flexibility. What about a person grieving the loss of a parent, etc?

  • careyg

    The irony being that writing a book would take me away from my kids and thus negate my whole point! But thank you!!

  • Lisa Breit

    Thank you, thank you for speaking out with this perspective. I am among the educated, work-oriented woman who juggled mightily throughout a career and decades of raising children to make it work. I had invested in post-graduate degrees, invested in a career before starting a family, and had expected to advance and make a professional contribution while raising my children with the time and attention our particulars required. Like the author, in my bones, I could not and did not want to do it with a full-time job (she doesn’t even mention commuting!). I mostly managed through luck (enlightened bosses), telecommuting, flexibility–downsizing my expectations to fit my temperament, starting a small consulting practice that allowed me to enter and exit to different degrees over time, a reasonable partnership with my husband, and a number of capable child care providers. I admire Sheryl S.’s accomplishments, talent and ambition. I’m happy that she is doing what she strives to do with such aplomb. But leaning into a corporate culture that has been built on a social model that is long outdated (men in the workplace, women at home making it possible for men to be in the workplace) is of little interest and is unlikely to work. I would admire Sheryl a lot more if she leaned into whatever it takes to change corporate culture to make it more flexible, humane and realistic for all working parents–even those without Sheryl’s particular temperament and pedigree.

  • Mary Mesclun

    You need to read the book because she goes to GREAT lengths to acknowledge that not all women aspire to be driven career-wise but that she also talks about how this can apply in our daily lives as well to strike a balance in our MULTIPLE roles as women.

  • meg

    This misses the entire point of her manifesto. She outrightly says that being in the corner office is not for everyone, but there is a need to encourage more women to consider it. So much of the world is limited for women because it is run by men. She isn’t declaring that women need to have her job or her life. As a 21 year old, I actually find it disheartening that women are objecting to her suggestions and advice. Based on such visceral reactions, SAHM’s would resent any choice I made that didn’t align perfectly with theirs. Thank you Carey for making me feel guilty about already considering choosing my career in healthcare technology over a life of maternity.

  • PushawKa

    What part of “don’t leave until you leave” didn’t Goldberg understand? She makes good points about the workplace in particular but shamefully slammed an American hero whose message in this talk was that women shouldn’t close the door on behind themselves until they leave the room. The assumption throughout most of the talk is that you are going to be a SAHM at some point.

  • Simzreid

    I agree with this critique in principle, but its somewhat floored by the fact that Sandberg’s mantra is 100% aimed at women who DO want to “lean in”. The start of her aged talk makes this very clear.