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The Golden Child

February 15, 2012

In a brief part 2 to yesterday’s post about women entrepreneurs there’s a NY Times article talking about Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook executive in case you’ve been living under a rock). Now I like Sandberg okay. She’s a very talented business woman and I enjoyed her TED talk on why she felt there were too few women leaders. It’s pretty good advice taken from one woman to another. Still some of the things she says I listen to and am thinking, “Yeah that’s probably a good idea, but it’s not going to work for me.” Then I shrug my shoulders and walk away. Even more when I keep hearing about her being a “successful woman in tech” I want to roll my eyes out of my head.

Look she might be the most brilliant woman ever. But if she’s a woman in tech than apparently any one of the office assistants in my building are “women in engineering” or maybe the hardworking folks who empty the trash cans and clean the bathrooms should also be counted as “working in tech”. No? (Photo via creative commons)

Right. Because a BA in Economics and then some business-y job at a “tech” company does not qualify one as representative of women in tech. Or no more so than the head of your marketing your HR department qualifying as an engineer. From the NY Times article:

“I’m a huge fan of her accomplishments and think she’s a huge role model in some ways, but I think she’s overly critical of women because she’s almost implying that they don’t have the juice, the chutzpah, to go for it,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, president of the Center for Talent Innovation, a research organization on work-life policy, and director of the Gender and Policy Program at Columbia University.

“I think she’s had a golden path herself, and perhaps does not more readily understand that the real struggles are not having children or ambition,” Ms. Hewlett continued. “Women are, in fact, fierce in their ambition, but they find that they’re actually derailed by other things, like they don’t have a sponsor in their life that helps them go for it.”

Thank you Hewlett. I’m pretty young and I’ve already come up against the glass ceiling being lowered over my head. Or maybe the unending tide of sexism and stereotyping would be another way of putting it. I get tired swimming against the tide. And I don’t have any children, or any plan to ever have children. So it’s not my procreation that’s making my life difficult.

Sandberg reminds me of a female quasi-mentor I have in my real life. She tells me laughingly that I am too negative. That I need to be confident and get things done. That I’m not presenting myself well or playing the political game very well (okay that last part is very true). But this idea that if I just buck up and show some confidence and I’ll move up through the ranks is pure drivel.  I mean really, we’re not going to start recommending women in the tech field start reading The Secret, right? We’re just not putting enough positive thoughts out to the universe is that it?

I respect Sandberg. And I respect my female mentor. But they are both golden children. Both had sponsors. I’ve seen many more women without sponsors who have not succeeded. Who get a “rep” from one group of boys and couldn’t shake it. Management chose to believe the gossipy sensations of a bunch of insecure young men over trusting the woman’s actual work output. And it’s not just women, right? If you don’t fit into whatever your cool club is at work you’re left out. And having these confident golden children tell us we’re just being too negative or as Sandberg puts it “slowing down” shows they don’t understand how lucky they’ve had it. That not everyone else will walk the same path.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 2:29 pm

    There’s an interesting article on gender gap in professors effecting the gender gap in who goes into the sciences. It speaks to a lot of what you are saying here, I think. The full article can be found on the first author’s website.

  2. March 6, 2012 5:12 am

    {sigh} Plus ca change…

    “…they don’t understand how lucky they’ve had it.” Yeah: I’ve always thought that success entailed a healthy dose of luck. However, a friend (male, I’m afraid), once remarked unoriginally that you make your own luck. IMHO, what actually happens is luck comes your way at a time when you happen to be alert enough to recognize it and then take advantage of it.

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