Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sheryl Sandberg as Model Top Executive

The New Yorker has a wonderful profile of Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. Sandberg pushes women who want to have "C-level jobs" - CEO, COO, CFO, etc. - to lean in, to seek new assignments, new challenges, new problems, despite the fact that they feel unprepared. Sandberg and her husband, himself a CEO of Survey Monkey, have two children and what she calls a 50-50 marriage. Ken Auletta notes in the magazine profile that

Some critics, however, note that Sandberg is not exactly a typical working mother. She has a nanny at home and a staff at work. Google made her very rich; Facebook may make her a billionaire. If she and her husband are travelling or are stuck at their desks, there is someone else to feed their kids and read to them.

That is true. Sandberg is not a typical working mother. She is, though, a typical working top executive, male or female. She concentrates on her job. Someone else does the bulk of the work running her house and, especially, minding her children.

Male top executives have lived this way since there were top executives. Female top executives will, I believe, need to live the same way. This is not from sexism or the male norms in executive life. This is from the very demanding life of being a top executive. The organization has more demands than there are minutes in the day.

Men and women who want to primarily raise their own children cannot also be top executives of large organizations. They have to choose. I believe that there will always be some men and women willing to make that choice. But I also believe that men and women will never make that choice in the same proportion. Not voluntarily, anyway.

Sheryl Sandberg is an excellent role model for women who want to be top executives. Her advice to such women is excellent. But there will never be as many women like her as there are men.


ceemac said...

"Someone else does the bulk of the work running her house and, especially, minding her children."

But hasn't this always been true for most wealthy/powerful women even if they were not the ones earning the income.

Wet nurses, nannies, tutors and boarding schools etc Very little hands on minding of the children.

Gruntled said...

Rich women, yes. We now have sizable numbers of working upper-middle and working rich women. They have been trying to take their norms from the middles, rather than the rich or from their males C-level counterparts.

Rahul said...

Everyone here is complaining about facebook. Go out and get real friends and all that. Yes, that is a good thing. However, some of us, like my Marine Corps family, use facebook to keep in touch. I can post pictures of our kids and the whole family can see them, easier than email or mail. I also can let them all know how we are doing, things that happen day to day and so forth. I can do it in 5 seconds and dont have to spend hours on the phone talking to each of them. And btw, its called privacy settings. No one can search for me, find me, see me, unless I want them to. Gee, that was easy!