I have been intrigued by the actions of Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo!, as well as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. These two women have been pushed into the spotlight as unofficial role models for working mothers everywhere. I have great respect for the fact that they have been able to reach such impressive positions in a male dominated field like technology. I have struggled fighting the battles myself in my long career in the technology field. Women just aren’t treated the same and it leaves one always questioning what the right way to handle a situation is knowing that if you “handle it like a man would”, you will get backlash and if you “handle it like a woman would”, you will not get the respect you deserve.
But both of these women have also sparked a lot of debate on what type of role models they are. Marissa’s recent announcement to do away with remote working at Yahoo! brought bands of working mothers out of the woodwork to complain that she is hurting what women have been fighting for with her decision. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with some of her statements in a recent interview with CNN. The thought that she isn’t thinking about anyone else’s standards of parenthood made me sad that she does have the platform to help change the way companies look at working mothers, but doesn’t seem to care to help. I suppose that may be because she has the money to have a nursery built right next to her office. We should all be so lucky!
While, Sheryl’s book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead has brought it’s own share of women out to debate the aggressiveness that she speaks about to get ahead in a woman’s career. Women are either supporting her approach or upset that she is pushing for women to do more instead of putting the blame on the corporate culture. Sheryl has built a community to help women band together with the concept of “leaning in”.
I am very happy to see a couple of strong women in positions to be able to speak out on some of the working mother issues in a way that has people listening. I don’t even mind the debates because at least people are talking and it opens the doors for bigger messages to companies about the struggles working women and women, in general, face in the work place. I’ve even read that a recent Pew Study found that working dads are now as stressed as working moms. So, just maybe, we can get more working dads to jump aboard and fight for the rights of working women as well.
It leaves me wondering though – why does it take big names to get this debate in the forefront? With women in the workforce growing in numbers, I tend to lean towards Sheryl’s thinking. We need to speak up more for ourselves. And if we don’t, then do we really have a right to sit back and complain? Why are so many women afraid to speak up and ask for what they need or spark a conversation for improving the workplace for women?
I used to be one of those women that were afraid to ask for things for fear of being looked at as someone wanting special privileges or that cannot handle the job or that it may put a ding on my working reputation in some way, but as I have grown in my career, I have learned that there are many companies that are actually open to the discussion if approached the right way. Are there things you could be doing to help your position in the workforce? What are your thoughts on being more aggressive – is it the women that need to change their approach or is it a corporate culture issue? I would love to hear your thoughts on how to make change happen!