Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lean In

Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is in the news these days on the occasion of the release of her book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I haven’t read the book yet… but I have listened to a few interviews (check out the HBR IdeaCast interview by clicking here). Her December 2010 TED talk put her on the map regarding this topic, available by clicking here

One of the main points, if not the main point, of the interviews isn’t a technique or philosophy or new discovery; the point is that we need to talk about gender and work. Talking about gender and work in all the various contexts of our work, from all our various perspectives, makes a real difference. We need to continue to talk and study and think about gender and work. 

It isn’t just a matter of talk, of course, but no real change will continue to occur unless we continue to talk (and listen and discuss and even argue). This appears to be universally true; I know that it is especially true in my networks of influence (church, higher ed, nonprofits and such).

The topic of this blog, work and calling, won’t be complete unless we consider gender and work. 

Just this week I was talking to a friend, pointing out one of the deficiencies of this blog. Specifically, the work and calling stories I’ve written so far have been mostly about men. I explained, “While I have made some efforts to connect with women for project, so far I’ve taken the easy road and merely picked the low hanging fruit.” It is easier for me to meet male friends for lunch or coffee, easier for me to have a free-flowing conversation, and I have taken the easy way (I tell myself that it has been the efficient way… efficient sounds less lazy than easy).

But it is just that kind of attitude that consistently excludes women from full and meaningful engagement in work. I’ve never had any problems dealing with women in formal contexts. Working for and with women at the office and in meetings is a non-issue; serving with women on committees and boards has always been natural for me. But not all work is accomplished in formal contexts. Informal contexts (like recreation, or casual conversations, or road trips, or coffee) are important places where real work gets done; that doesn’t come so easily for me. 

I’m not sure what the entire answer is, but I know that it involves (1) not settling for the easiest ways and (2) continuing to include gender in the conversation about work and calling. 

Listen to Sheryl Sandberg’s important views and let’s keep talking.

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