How Working Women Cope: To Lean In or Not, Part 2

Last week we covered two views concerning leadership for working women. (See: How Working Women Cope: To Lean In or Not.) Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, recently published Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead to encourage women to aspire to executive leadership roles. In Part 2 we look at ways to improve coping with “leaning in” while facing the realities of our families and business structures.

Slip 'n' Slide

Are we on thin ice when we try to cope with leaning in?

Are we on thin ice when we try to cope with leaning in?

If you don't want to lean in, working part time can help women stay in touch with the realities of new trends, new social media, and new ways of doing business. Continuous awareness of changes in the market requires staying involved. Short-term contracts may keep skills fresh.

Job sharing and flex time are great ideas for both men and women, especially with our aging workforce. Starting a home-based business creates an ongoing opportunity for leadership. But not everyone is suited for self-employment. Assess your strengths carefully. More women can cope better with at least a few days of telecommuting a week.

More people are faced with monitoring health issues with aging parents. Particularly difficult is the worker with his or her own serious illness, a disabled child, or troubled teenagers. More part-time jobs could make a difference in their lives and our economy.

Discussion on this topic is healthy for all. If we could change the mindset that women are too strong, too aggressive, or too timid, that would be healthy for all of us. Although distinctly different, both women and men make good leaders. And we can profit from the “lean-in” discussions.

What a few famous females say

  • Gloria Steinem

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

  • Katherine Weymouth, publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post

“I also absolutely believe that changing corporate policies and corporate culture would help address the widely acknowledged dearth of women in senior positions at U.S. companies. But we still need to sit at the table, speak up (without speaking a sentence in the form of a question, one of my pet peeves) and not be afraid that someone might not like us.”

Be sure to read all of her article “How Do You Lean In Without Someone to Lean On?.”

  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University

From the post in the Atlantic magazine, titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”

“In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else's schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be — at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office — at least not for very long.”

  • Carly Fiorina

“Women are the most underutilized resource in the world. That's an economic fact.”

What a few professional female friends say

  • VP-HR, recently retired, two grown children, worked in banking and consumer products in dual career family:

“Life is too short to ride in the middle seat in coach for too long.”

She's enjoying her grandchildren and traveling extensively. She has not regretted the angst in her career and feels very fortunate to be able to retire.

  • Engineer-telecom, married, young two children:

“I think Sheryl is right in a way — but, women don't like her message because they're already working too hard and don't want to lean in anywhere anymore.”

  • Purchasing Agent-Consumer products and IT industries, grown kids:

“I'm too busy to talk. I'm slammed this week.”

  • HR-VP, Banking, technology, no kids:

“I don't have time to talk with you as we have people from corporate coming to visit.”

So that's it. Women are coping in various ways, some more than others. They are too busy and overworked, but they are coping. Let's hear more of your comments. Your insight is valuable!

Ruth Glover established Career Consultations with four children at home. They are all, thankfully, grown and living on their own.

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8 comments on “How Working Women Cope: To Lean In or Not, Part 2

  1. SP
    April 12, 2013

    Hot topic! As you grow in corporate ladder, you should be ready to get into groupism, say yes to companies that you actually dont want. And if you are too honest and positive and clear in talking then that is it..being women, holding senior level position and just minding your business doesnt work at all. But as a women you always have choice to quit the corporate political world and spend time with your family. But tough, clear and result oriented professional women always gets many obstacle in their careers. In US since the culture gives equal importance to both genders, it not that rough but in India people are not used to women in senior leadership so political games gets tougher.

  2. Ruth Glover
    April 12, 2013

    Thanks for your comments. Let's hope “noise” about this topic travels around the world and that we can keep the discussion productive.  We need to find ways for better work/life balance globally.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    April 14, 2013

    When we say “Equal opportunity ” employment,  women should not put themselves  at some different level compared to the men in the same position. They should be as tough, as shrewd and as manipulating and as agreesive as their male counterparts .

    As far family and kids are concerned it should be equal responsibility of the spouse so that the carreer women do not have to carry the double burden of the job in the office and house work at home.

    If this approach is truely followed then women will not have to leave their full time careers for the sake of their family and then do the sundry part time jobs in their later part of life.

    Whether to take up a full time career or be a family-first woman should be an individual decision.

  4. Ruth Glover
    April 14, 2013

    Thank you for your eloquent summary.  I'd like to add that both men and women, single, married, with or without children have issues that need attention during work hours.  Taking an aged parent to the doctor, even finding the right kind of doctor, is becoming a bigger issue.  Flex time can be such a benefit to the worker, regardless of sex, to allow time to care for a family member with a disability, for example. Working from home, at least periodically, may assist with some of these serious work/life balance challenges.

    April 15, 2013

    I see in the UK many 40 ish women going part time and only a few men doing the same.  I suppose it might be a matter of circumstances too.  I think it is a good thing for companies to promote flexible working so that people can more effectively juggle work and family commitments.  

  6. SP
    April 15, 2013

    IBM is well known for good work from home policies. It works so good for new mothers …

  7. Ruth Glover
    April 15, 2013

    Some companies are trying hard to innovate for equality.  I believe more and more companies will need to follow suit to improve their corporate culture and reputation.

    Two of my upcoming articles will talk about upcoming trends in talent managment.  Plus, you might want to register for the upcoming webinar through to hear more about Averting the Supply Chain Talent Gap.

  8. SP
    April 16, 2013 let us know the details of the seminar, will try to attend

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