“More than half of American women are the breadwinners in their households, but women still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” explains Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. “This wage gap starts right out of college, is highest on Wall Street, and stagnates during times of economic trouble.”
Does that frustrate you? You aren’t alone. But what are you doing about it? For starters, pick up Sandberg’s book. In this easy-to-read primer on how to lean in, Sandberg provides additional data and research into why women have a hard time making more money, getting promotions, and seizing opportunities—and 10 tips on how to reverse the trend.
How are other women leaning in? Scroll down to read insights into how some of the women on our Inkandescent Speakers Bureau are succeeding in business and life. And if you’d like to share your thoughts, please send us ideas and your photo via email.
Here’s to harnessing your power, and leaning in to seize whatever opportunity tickles your fancy. Go for it! — The Inkandescent Team
Illustrations below by Michael Glenwood Gibbs: www.mglenwood.com
Realize Your Career Is a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder.
The issue: As of 2010, the average American held 11 jobs from the ages of 18 to 46, Sandberg explains. “This means that the days of joining an organization or corporation and staying there to climb that one proverbial ladder are gone.”
The challenge: Many women suffer from the “Tiara Syndrome,” which was coined by Negotiating Women, Inc., to explain why women don’t get the raises and promotions they want—and deserve. It turns out they expect that if they keeping doing their job well, they’ll get noticed and have a proverbial tiara placed on their head, which comes in the way of the advancement they want. Rarely does this happen.
Sandberg’s solution: As Alice Walker says, “The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.” So don’t wait for power to be offered. “And anyway,” Sandberg says, “who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?”
How are you navigating your way through your career?
We asked former Olympic skier Tara Sheahan, president of Conscious Global Leadership, who answered by first defining “career”:
(Noun) An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
(Verb) Move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction: “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.”
I had to Google the definition of “career,” because I don’t actually know if I have one. And I realized why. It’s because what’s indicated above under the “noun” for career says nothing about inner fulfillment, connection with others, and happiness. Panache Desai, a spiritual mentor to many, says that the reason we have jobs and go to work is to learn how to love everyone. I’ll add to that how to be creative together, accept differences, honor uniqueness, and create profound change … together.
I teach mindfulness and emotional intelligence to help women discover that if they do want to wear the proverbial tiara, the only person whom they should seek to impress should be themselves. We can generate the validation we look for in our careers in one instance of awareness, in one moment of reflection: “I am amazing. And I love everything about myself.”
Somehow the “verb” description for career feels a lot more fun. I see myself careering across the road, flying through a hedge, and laughing hysterically at the rather uncontrolled and spontaneous life I’ve chosen to live. For me it begins with a baseline of self-love, and polishing the tiara daily.
Properly Navigate the Mentorship Relationship.
The issue: Sandberg shares that when she was a kid she loved “Are You My Mother?“—a children’s book that poignantly mirrors the professional question: Are you my mentor? “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no,” she observes, noting that when someone finds the right mentor, it’s obvious.
The challenge: Unfortunately, it’s tough for young women, especially, to find mentors and sponsors, and so they are proactive in their search. But that’s not the best approach. “While I normally applaud assertive behavior, this energy is sometimes misdirected,” Sandberg says, explaining that she knows this from experience as many women approach her in hopes she’ll take on the role. “No matter how critical these connections are, they probably won’t develop from asking a virtual stranger, ‘Will you be my mentor?’”
Sandberg’s solution: “The strongest relationships spring out of real and often earned connections felt on both sides,” she insists. Plus, she notes that mentorship is often a more reciprocal relationship than it may appear. “The mentee may receive more assistance, but the mentor receives useful information, greater commitment from colleagues, and a sense of fulfillment and pride.”
How are you looking for mentors/mentees?
For a perspective on how entrepreneurs mentor, we asked Marga Fripp, founder of Empowered Women International (EWI), for her insights. She said:
When I founded EWI in May 2002, my vision was to create a community of women for women, who can help one another succeed; a place where women support each other, and where others can hear the stories these women tell. A place where the American Dream lives on, and everyone feels welcome and at home.
I realized that when women told their stories, people listened. There was empathy. There was compassion. There was understanding. Many of the women I’ve met did not speak English well or at all, but they used paintings and music to tell stories. People responded to this media and I believed there was a viable business opportunity for these women to sell their artwork, products, and crafts if they could obtain the right skills.
Our mission is to help immigrant, refugee, and low-income women integrate into the community, rebuild their lives, families, and livelihoods, and pursue the American Dream using the power of the arts as a means for communication, cultural understanding, and entrepreneurship. Ten years later, what started out as a network of immigrants, women artists, and a few business classes has blossomed into an organization that every year trains more than 200 immigrants, refugees, and low-income women in business and leadership skills. It also launches socially responsible micro-businesses that support women and their families, as well as our local economy.
What’s the corporate America perspective?
I get asked often if I will mentor someone. The answer is unequivocally “no.” I have never seen it work. Why? Because these relationships are often one-sided to the benefit of the mentee.
What does work? A relationship I call “champion-talent.” This approach better meets the real needs of both parties. The reason is simple. Talent, aka: a young up-and-comer, needs two things: challenging, fulfilling work and a path to growth. The champion needs motivated talent to benefit both the corporation and the champion’s own further development. If the right team comes together, they both get what they need and instead of just being a mentee, the talent is actually brought along in their career by the champion.
Just as champions benefit from talents’ help, the talents benefit from the champions’ promotions and the better jobs that the champion is able to, well, champion them for. It’s simple. Mutual benefit at the personal level to the benefit of the corporation. It’s a win-win relationship.
Speak Your Truth.
The issue: “Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work,” Sandberg writes, noting that most of us constantly back away from honesty to protect ourselves and others.
The challenge: “This reticence causes and perpetuates all kinds of problems: uncomfortable issues that never get addressed, resentment that builds, unfit managers who get promoted rather than fired, and on and on,” she says.
Sandberg’s solution: “Be brave and tell the truth,” Sandberg insists, pointing to the infamous speech Starbucks founder Howard Schultz gave in 2008, when he took back the helm of his company, which he had left in 2000. In it, he openly admitted that the company was in serious trouble and teared up confessing he felt he had let his employees and their families down. “Maybe someday shedding tears in the workplace will no longer be viewed as embarrassing or weak, but as a simple display of authentic emotion,” she writes. “In the meantime, we can all hasten this change by committing ourselves to both seek—and speak—our truth.”
How are you speaking your truth?
We asked Kristine Carlson, co-author of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series, who shared the three things she considers when “speaking her truth.”
1. Stepping back from my reactions to create a moment of pause before responding. Speaking your truth is not always speaking what’s on your mind. I create a space upon my first reaction so I can reflect on what I’m feeling, breathe, and then respond from my heart. Consideration before speaking is the key to authentic communication, and to it being well-received in return. Taking that time to reflect changes the tone of the message delivered.
2. Valuing kindness and compassion first when communicating: WIth those in my personal relationships, business partnerships, and the grocery clerk—when kindness and compassion are your first intention, then speaking from this place will be received with grace.
3. Being transparent and real: The beauty of authenticity is that you don’t have to do anything other than be you. It’s knowing that you are already enough and showing up 100 percent as you. It’s a beautiful gift you give others because they in turn have permission to be transparent and real, too.
Don’t Leave Before You Leave.
The issue: “Women rarely make one big decision to leave the workforce,” Sandberg says. “Instead, they make a lot of small decisions along the way, making accommodations and sacrifices that they believe will be required to have a family.
The challenge: Of all the ways women hold themselves back, perhaps the most pervasive is that they leave before they leave.” Interestingly, research shows the more satisfied a person is with her position, the less likely she is to leave her job. Of course, she realizes, this situation is complicated once kids come along and childcare becomes an issue.
Sandberg’s solution: “Anyone lucky enough to have options should keep them open. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for an exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That’s the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.”
Are you leaving before you leave?
We asked Educator Dr. Carol Horn, who left her teaching job to raise her three children mid-way through her career. She got back into the education business when they were older, and today is the coordinator of the Advanced Academics program (formerly Gifted & Talented) for the Fairfax County Public Schools. She’s also the author of upcoming book for parents, “The 10 Big Ideas: How to help your child think bigger, imagine more, and do better in school.” Horn explains:
I began my teaching career in Boston. I loved the challenge of working with students from the inner city. I left only because I got married and my husband was an army officer whose assignment was constantly changing.
Over the next 15 years, we moved 10 times and had three children. I continued to teach whenever possible; however, between reassignments and three small children, sometimes it became close to impossible. I stayed current in education by taking courses, substitute teaching when possible, and volunteering in multiple roles that allowed me to continue to work with my own and other children.
One day when I was volunteering at my children’s school, the principal invited me to apply for an opening at the school. The time was right and the invitation was all it took to bring me back into the workforce and continue a career I had begun 18 years ago. Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions; however, if you are persistent and creative, there are ways to stay current in your field and pursue a path that works for you.
Make Your Partner Your Real Partner.
The issue: When a husband and wife are both employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more childcare and about 30 percent more housework than the father, according to the 2009 research paper, “Taking on the Second Shift.” Another 2009 study found only 9 percent of people in dual-earner marriages said they shared housework, childcare, and breadwinning evenly.
The challenge: In the last 30 years, women have made more progress in the workforce than in the home, Sandberg asserts. “I have heard a few men say they were heading home to ‘babysit’ their children. I have never heard a woman refer to taking care of her own children as ‘babysitting.’ A friend of mine ran a team-building exercise during a company retreat where people were asked to fill in their hobbies. Half of the men in the group listed their children as hobbies. For most mothers, kids are not a hobby. Showering is a hobby.”
Sandberg’s solution: Empower your husband! “I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical—and when it comes to children, fathers often take their cues from mothers. If she acts as gatekeeper, or questions his efforts, he does less. Let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts the diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.”
How are you letting your partner be your partner?
For a perspective on couples who work in separate businesses and have kids, we asked Lee Woodruff, co-founder of the Bob Woodruff Foundation / Remind.org, and author of the new novel, Those We Love Most. Woodruff said:
I think women fall down because we always want to do it our way. I remember once early on in my marriage when I told my husband how the dishwasher was supposed to be loaded. He looked at me and said, “Do you want me to load it? If not, I’m going to do it my way—which is not necessarily going to be the exact way you want it.”
He was absolutely right, and that was a great moment because that’s exactly right on so many levels. If we truly want to be a partner in a marriage—and have a partner in a marriage—we can’t expect what they do to always be the way we’d do it. The fact is that women do so much of the home organizing and because we get so much practice, and are literally trained to be good at this, men are simply not as competent at it as we are. So I want my husband to help out around the house, I just have to take a step back and allow whatever he does to be okay.
We have to honor the fact that men are wonderful dads, and in many cases do more than quintuple the amount of what their dads did. So when I am going to go out for two nights a week to promote my book, or go away to give a speech or a book talk for a week, then I need to just back off when I come home and the house is messy. If the kids are loved, and everyone got what they needed when I was away, the house being messy is not a big deal. The bottom line is that when you make your partner your partner, you have to focus on what truly matters.
Here’s a partnership perspective from an entrepreneurial couple without kids.
We asked Barefoot Wine co-founder Bonnie Harvey for insights on how she and her partner, Michael Houlihan, worked together to build their business into what is now the #1 bestselling vino in the country. Not only that, but they co-wrote “The Barefoot Spirit,” which was published in May and is the June 2013 New York Times #2 Business Bestseller. Harvey said:
Working with your significant other in the same business is a challenge not recommended for everybody, but building the Barefoot Wine brand from nothing to a national and international bestseller with my business and romantic partner was a positive and profitable experience.
Skills. For one thing, we had different skill sets, and we each needed and respected the other’s contribution in order to succeed. He was front office and I was back office. For another, we did not micro-manage each other. We gave each other the freedom to do our own thing and control our area of the business unfettered.
Decisions. All of our big decisions were unanimous. If we didn’t both agree, we didn’t do it. Even when we had a proper board of directors, it was made up of two women and two men, and we all agreed that all decisions would be unanimous. If three people couldn’t convince one, then it probably wasn’t a good idea anyway. This policy avoids the I-told-you-so’s that can go on for years and hurt working relationships.
Space. We made sure our workplace got out of the domestic part of the house as soon as possible. Starting out, we couldn’t afford a washer and a dryer, so we had plenty of space in the laundry room. It was important for us to physically and behaviorally separate work from our private lives. We had rules. One was no business talk in the bedroom. We also gave ourselves some space and time away from business to keep the romance alive. Every January, we would plan, and buy tickets in advance, for a few vacations a year. Then we would look forward to the break and plan our work around those breaks.
Chores. We had different skill sets in the home as well. I cooked and he cleaned. We also decided when we met that one of the things we both wanted in life was services. So as soon as we could afford it, we got a regular house cleaner, gardener, and maintainence person. Sure we could have saved the money, but instead we saved the time and made more money because of it.
Working with your partner in business is not for everyone, but if you follow whatever rules you agree on together, you will have a much better chance of success.
Drop the Myth of Doing It All.
The issue: The lure of “‘having it all’ is perhaps the greatest trap ever set for women,” Sandberg insists, pointing to Cornell economics professor Sharon Poczter, who explains:
“The antiquated rhetoric of ‘having it all’ disregards the basis of every economic relationship—the idea of trade-offs. All of us are dealing with the constrained optimization that is life, attempting to maximize our utility based on parameters like career, kids, relationships, etc., doing our best to allocate the resource of time. Due to the scarcity of this resource, no one can ‘have it all,’ and those who claim to are most likely lying.”
The challenge: “No matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all. Nor can we. Trying to do it all and expecting that it can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment,” Sandberg says, directing us to this quote by feminist and activist Gloria Steinem:
“You can’t do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children, and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic ‘til dawn … Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement.”
Sandberg’s solution: “Done is better than perfect,” is one of Sandberg’s favorite posters posted on the wall in Facebook’s offices. Another favorite quote of hers comes from Nora Ephron’s 1996 Wellesley commencement speech, in which the wise, passionate author insisted:
“It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands.”
How are you embracing the mess?
First, I focus on what’s important and prioritize. My work focuses on people who suffer abuses, from civilian massacres and sexual violence to discrimination and torture. It brings perspective to my own challenges and helps me stay in touch with how lucky I am, even amid the mess.
Second, I ask for help. Mind you, this part of my strategy has taken some time for me to learn to do. But given my crazy work and travel schedule, I now reach out to friends and relatives to help me take care of things. From babysitting to dog walking to hosting my daughter’s birthday party, I’m drawing on people who love us enough to pitch in. And we do the same for others, too.
And last, I take a lot of deep breaths.
Start Talking About It.
The issue: “Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go through life without being labeled by my gender,” Sandberg says, recalling when she was a congressional page in the US House of Representatives working for Rep. William Lehman and he introduced her to then Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. “He reached over and patted me on the head, then turned to the congressman and said, ‘She’s pretty.’ Are you a pom-pom girl?’”
The challenge: Sandberg realized that O’Neill was born in 1912—eight years before women were given the right to vote. Still, she notes, it was that experience and many others that inspired her to give her first TedTalk, which went viral. “I know it isn’t easy,” she says. “The subject [of gender] presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while achieving the goal of being treated the same.”
Sandberg’s solution: “Semantics can be important, but I don’t think progress turns on our willingness to apply a label to ourselves,” she believes. “I do think progress turns on our willingness to speak up about the impact gender has on us. We can no longer pretend that biases do not exist, nor can we talk around them.”
How are you talking about inequity and gender differences?
We asked Futurist and former Disney Innovator Yvette Montero Salvatico, co-owner of the futurist consulting firm Kedge, who said:
Evidence is mounting that the traditional gender labels of “male” and “female” are inadequate in the face of today’s social changes. We are complex beings, and should not be surprised that many feel the full expression of their identity cannot be captured by these antiquated terms.
Similar challenges are emerging around the concept of “race,” leading many to question the data-gathering methods that rely on multiple-choice responses to quantify diversity within organizations. The problem with these efforts is that diversity is more qualitative than quantitative.
Instead of calls for “more women on boards” and “increased representation of African Americans in senior roles,” we should be looking beneath the surface to see what really matters: How do different individuals think, how do they act, and what do they believe? We must not let gender—or any other type of label—confine us. In order to do so, we need to start measuring diversity in new and more meaningful ways.
The issue: “Despite all the gains we have made, neither men nor women have real choice,” Sandberg concedes. “Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice. And until men are fully respected for contributing inside the home, they don’t have real choice either. Equal opportunity is not equal unless everyone receives the encouragement that makes seizing those opportunities possible.” Gloria Steinem believes the same.
The challenge: Unfortunately, women have not always worked together in the past.
Sandberg’s solution: “We are a new generation and we need a new approach,” Sandberg proclaims. “The more that women stick up for each other, the better. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen.” Her goal, she says, is to keep talking, and push for a shift in the world that evolves to become the one she wants for all children, including her own. “If my son wants to do the important work of raising children full-time, I hope he is respected and supported. And if my daughter wants to work full-time outside her home, I hope she is not just respected and supported, but also liked for her achievements. I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be. And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in—all the way.”
How are you working together—and for the greater good of the future?
We asked Social Entrepreneur expert Beverly Schwartz, VP Global Marketing at Ashoka, and author of “Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation,” who said:
The fast pace of change today demands a re-invention of the way we work. Working together means working with everyone equally. A team-of-team approach needs to replace current structures, and needs to be composed of different actors with different perspectives and agendas. It consists of no particular gender—the only requirement is that everyone is collegial, supportive, and “leans in” to work to full capacity with each other.
That means a new generation of women as well as men will grow into their careers mentored in how to work collaboratively and creatively. This is one of the foundational criteria for being an innovative and successful social entrepreneur; creating and nurturing a team-of-teams approach to tackle social challenges.
The role of making sure women participate and get the chance to engage equally on these teams is up to women of later generations. I accept that responsibility every day and relish noticing the impact.
How Are You Leaning In?
We’d love to hear from you! Send us your thoughts, bio, and photo and we’ll add it to our “Leaning In Circle” article on TrulyAmazingWomen.com. Send responses via email to: email@example.com. Here’s to harnessing your power, and your incredible, indelible, Inkandescent success!