Facebook boss-lady is up the pole on the glass ceiling
Stock options or seeing little faces light up? Easy
Opinion In one fell swoop, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg set back the women's movement. By declaring an "ambition gap" between men and women, suggesting that "until women are as ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men," Sandberg defined 'success' in such a narrow way that most women (and men) can never attain it. More saliently, far fewer may want to.
Or need to. One option is simply to go childless, which removes the need to juggle children with work responsibilities. Seventy-one per cent of working women today have children aged six to 17, but a range of high-profile women like US Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor have foregone children and thrived in their absence.
At least, in their careers. But what about those of us, women and men, who actually think foregoing family is a much worse option than missing out on a job promotion? For me, personally, I need my kids to constantly remind me of what matters most in life, and how little any career attainments actually mean. They keep me humble, and happy (and usually in that order). And they are what makes my work meaningful, because I work for them, not in spite of them.
Well, for those of us whose "ambition" is to have a happy family and a successful career, Sandberg's counsel is a step back into the Dark Ages.
After all, as Lauren Ashburn, president of Ashburn Media Company, notes, women outnumber men in the workforce, and should be able to dictate more flexible working arrangements, for both women and men. Indeed, Facebook is exemplary in providing perks that make it easier for mothers and fathers to better balance their work and family lives. Technology, too, makes it easier to work longer hours without actually being in the office for longer durations.
Which isn't to say that there aren't trade-offs. As Judge Loretta Preska wrote in a recent legal decision dismissing claims that Bloomberg had engaged in a pattern of discrimination against working mothers, "The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance'. In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences."
Such consequences absolutely may include permanent detours on the way to the CEO's office.
But that's OK. Again, many of us, women and men, understand that a focus on family may crimp our career aspirations, and are fine with that. The parental payoff is far greater than any stock option grant or bonus check.
No, the problem is that people like Sandberg believe that women are somehow worse off or less than men because they may have their priorities differently aligned than hers. Apparently, a high percentage of women feel that there's a glass ceiling imposed by men that keeps them down the rungs of the corporate ladder. That's not acceptable. But if we can remove those perceived and actual limits, and women and men then choose to prefer family over career advancement, that's not a question of limiting ambition. It's rather an example of having a different ambition.
Surely Sandberg, a mother of two, must understand this. And yet her counsel seems to skew toward work. That's understandable: she's COO of Facebook, after all, and no one is asking for her opinion on motherhood and parenting. But that's too bad, as I suspect her insight into how to be a good mother while secondarily serving as COO of Facebook would be welcome counsel for the vast majority of people who will never be COO of anything, but have already made the choice to be a parent.
We don't lack ambition. We could use a few pointers. That would be real advice worth taking, not this "you're not ambitious enough unless you put family second and work first". That might benefit a company's bottom line, but it's terrible advice for society. ®
The personal view is the point of the article. The author is not saying, "Everyone must aspire to raising a family". He is saying, "ambition is a personal thing". Your ambition (chilled life), the author's ambition (a family), Sandberg's ambition (COO of major tech company) are different. He's saying it's unfair for Sandberg to criticise others for having different ambitions to herself. Of course, it's quite right to criticise organisations that have "glass ceilings" preventing the realisation of ambitions of those who do.
Seems fair enough to me.
Ambition is a vector quantity
It has both magnitude and direction.
It's almost certainly wrong to claim that one gender or another has more or less ambition (and therefore creates a "gap") than the other. The big point is that different people want different things from life. It's not just gender related, but to assume that everyone wants to rise up within their organisation and be promoted (to just beyond the limits of their abilities, according to the Peter Principle (no relation)) is absurd.
I would suggest that for most people, who are not unbalanced, power-crazed or harbouring some deep-seated pathology the ultimate goal is to lead a happy and contented life. Not to try to earn a few gazillion more than the psycho in the next padded cell - or wood-panelled office. If a lot of people aim to achieve that through a family life, rather than their careers or "recognition" then more power to their elbows. Maybe the lack of women at the higher levels within companies is (in part at least) due to most of them not wishing to be there.
I can only assume that we are reading different articles. Can you explain where Matt made any sort of "woe-is-me" noises?