Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lean In

I've been thinking about Sheryl Sandberg's book ever since I put it down two months ago. Sandberg has been Facebook's COO since 2008 and is the new face of women in the workplace.

While I disagree with some of her views such as that it's okay for women to cry in the workplace and that women don't need mentors, the bulk of her content and the way she tells stories, backed by data, fuels my ambition. However, I am on the older side of the demographic for this book; I've already made significant career choices and completed my family.

Her point, in a nutshell, is that the many gender biases that still operate in the workplace aren't an excuse for women hitting the glass ceilings. Justifications won't get us anywhere. Instead, women should believe in themselves, give it their all, "lean in" and have confidence that they can successfully combine work and family.

"When a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled bossy," Sandberg writes. "Boys are seldom bossy because a boy taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend." She goes on to share the Columbia Business School case study that measured "likability" among men versus women in business. One group of students were told of an aggressive, successful venture capitalist named Heidi; another group of students were told the same story except that Heidi was Howard. Even though no other details were changed, students found Howard the more likable of the two.

The data points in this book make my blood boil.

Sandberg points out that men apply for jobs when they meet merely 60 percent of the listed requirements while women wait until they meet 100 percent. Men also negotiate for higher salaries far more often than women. For example, of a graduation class of Carnegie Mellon students, 57 percent of men initiated negotiations as compared to 7 percent of women.

Men are often hired based on their potential whereas women are hired based on past successes. Just this week my friend "Craig" asked a hiring manager why the previous person in the job they were discussing had not worked out. Craig was told exactly that, "I hired him based more on his potential than his fit for this job."

I spend a fair amount of time counseling early- and mid-career-stage women to not settle for less than they're worth, for doing their part to close the wage gap between men and women. They tell me that they don't have the nerve to ask for a flexible work situation or more money. They tell me that "things are just as bad out there" as "where I work now". I challenge them to better their situations.

Sandberg tells us that the most important decision a woman makes is picking her spouse. To achieve big in corporate America one needs a partner who will do his or her 50% and support their partner's career choices.

I hit the jackpot on this one. I have learned a lot about negotiation from Dave. Who do you think gives me the confidence to go after what I'm worth and to pursue new interests? Who is just as good, if not better, with the kids? I actually think they like him more. He's definitely more fun.

Sandberg encourages women to face their fears. After more than 20 years in technology I still have days that I feel like a fraud. And I still sometimes find myself spoken over and discounted while the men sitting next to me are not. But now I take a deep breath and keep at it. I have learned to sit at the table. When one of my male colleagues pops out of his office and yells to a female on our team, "I want to talk to you" I grimace. This is another behavior Sandberg cites as something a male would never do to another male. I have pointed this out to the women on our team so they can make their own decisions about how to react.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

It was a good book, a classic, in case you haven't read it.

Brooklyn is trendy now. Really trendy. And while Dave and I have been to New York many times, we've only seen the inside of one particular steakhouse there. The time came to rectify that.

I went to my trusted source: Context Travel. We took a Context Travel walking tour of Venice with The Pinks two summers ago. It was the best tour ever.

We loved our architectural walking tour Brooklyn, too. Matico Josephson was our guide. He's an urban historian and PhD student at NYU. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge dodging the children on school field trips and trying not to pass out in the 90 degree heat and explored the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights. It was impossible not to picture ourselves living there as we walked the neighborhoods, admiring the gorgeous view of the New York skyline, the leafy, tree-lined streets with the shade we really needed and the Federal-style brownstones.

From Matico we learned that the steel diagonal cables on the bridge don't actually serve a purpose more than aesthetic. There were originally added so that the bridge would be able to bear additional load. However, more recent load tests have shown that they do no such thing. Of course they'll never be taken down as they are a recognizable part of this National Historic Landmark.

Matico took us to Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church, which was a famous stop on the Underground Railroad. From his pulpit in the more-amphitheater-than-traditional church, Beecher held auctions where congregants bid for the freedom of slaves.

After our tour we had a late lunch at Grimaldi's Pizza. Yum. Stomachs full, we took the ferry back to Manhattan. And then napped before heading out to Spider Man.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Him and me. NYC.

The Pinks are fun. A lot of fun. But every once in a while it's good to revisit the life Dave and I had before we had kids. Our weekend in New York was just that.

I'd always wanted to see more of Central Park than just what you glimpse from the perimeter. On this trip we rented bikes and explored. We saw the reservoir that makes its appearance over and over again on the big and small screens. We saw Strawberry Fields and Sheep Meadow. You cannot ride a bike through the whole of Central Park; there's a systematic way to do it. Imagine a road two lanes wide but divided into three lanes. On the far left are people on foot, either running or walking. In the center are the leisurely bikers. To the right are the speed demons. Everyone travels counterclockwise, south to north. It's very orderly.

We saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway. It's quite shocking actually. However, it's incredibly creative and was, of course, very well done. Still, I did not expect to be so offended by it.

We also saw Spider-Man. Wow! I enjoyed this far more than I expected to. Our seats were in the very first row so we got a look behind the scenes, too. The actors were literally as close to us as my screen is to my face while I type this! We could see that the actress who plays Mary Jane has had surgery on both knees. The sets were beautiful: cartoon meets pop art. You know those graphic novels that the kids are all about these days? Picture those in 3D and moving. The audience really feels as if it's in the middle of the action. The action scenes themselves were beautifully choreographed, the high-flying acrobatics mid air reaching all three levels of the theater and on the stage.

Bono and The Edge did the music, which is how we ended up there in the first place. These guys are among Dave's favorites. I'm so glad we went.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The silence was deafening.

Dave and I are just back from a long weekend in New York. (Happy 20th anniversary to us!)

The very last thing we did on our trip was go to the 9-11 Memorial.

In a city of 8 million people, of nonstop frenzy, it's the quietest spot.