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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.

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The first female gondolier in Venice.

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that the before picture in this lose-fat advert is something I aspire to. Either this is a brutal commentary on our culture or my own personal weight.

before

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This study came out last week. I may be overstating it a bit to call it explosive, but I think it could spark a big change in what type of contraceptives women use.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young women who use oral contraceptives (OC) may not get as much out of their weight-lifting routine as women who are not on the pill, according to a study released today, which suggests that OC use impairs muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.

“The factors that explain the differences in the magnitude of the responses to resistance exercise training between individuals are largely unknown,” Chang-Woock Lee, from Texas A&M University in College Station, told Reuters Health.

“The present study is meaningful in that we have identified a potential new factor that may be independently associated with the characteristics and variability of muscle responses to a controlled resistance exercise training program,” the researcher added.

In the study, 73 generally healthy women between 18 and 31 years old participated in whole-body resistance exercises three times per week for 10 weeks. Thirty-four of the women used oral contraceptives and 39 did not. The women were encouraged to eat enough protein to promote muscle growth.

In the article, which I highly recommend, they posit that women taking the pill may not have enough testosterone to build muscle.

Why do I think this is explosive? The pill is most popular with young women. Young women are more likely to care about their appearance and weight in such a way that they would be reluctant to use the pill as their contraceptive if it negatively impacts their workout routine. Think I am painting a vain and petty portrait of young women? Perhaps.

But given that the pill is advertised to women in such a variety of  petty ways, the advertising companies at least believe women would make their contraceptive choices on even flimsier grounds. Like the pill that will help with acne. Or the pill that you take once a month. Or every two months. Or every two weeks. Or every year. How about patch? Or a ring? Or an implant under your arm? It’s just so dang difficult to take a pill everyday. The pharmaceutical companies have taken one drug and turned it into a million different varieties of the same thing thereby creating multiple patents.

Will this lead  to an increase in non-oral contraceptives? More children? More abortions? I think it’s too soon to tell, but I’m interested in following this.

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I picked up a copy of the magazine Essense because Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson were on the cover. I’m really impressed with this magazine. I’m not really sure what the non-ethnic specific magazine’s counterpart would be, but it’d definately not Vogue, Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair. Maybe Womens World? I can’t say because I never read Womens World.

What I found that I liked about the magazine was that it was very empowering. Most of the articles deal with issues for self-improvement of some sort, but that self-improvement is really focused on Black (which they always capitalize) women — not how improving oneself can benefit your man or some other person. The health articles aren’t particularly vain which is one thing that I detest in so-called “health” magazines like Self where the whole magazine is how can I spend hours a day making myself beautiful for othe vain people.

Let me give you a selection of what this May 2009 edition includes:

1. An article on women entrepeneurs and what they did to get ahead.

2. 9 Ways to go Green. Here’s an excerpt. “Though many of us don’t fully relate to the green movement, we stand to benefit the most from it. More than 70 percent of Blacks live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards.”

3. Our News. Witty humor about current event issues that deal with the Black community.

4. The Good Fight. An article bout Reverend Roy Malveaux fighting an oil refinery in his neighborhood.

And of course there’s that Michelle Obama/Marian Robinson interview. Good magazine.

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Clearly not as easy as it sounds. Highlights include:

Before her wedding last year, Huda Batterjee went abroad to buy her bridal lingerie — she just couldn’t bear the humiliation of discussing her most intimate apparel with a man. She had little choice: there are almost no saleswomen in Saudi Arabia. Now a group of Saudi women — sick of having to deal with male sales staff when buying bras or panties, not to mention frilly negligees or thongs — have launched a campaign this week to boycott lingerie stores until they employ women.

But in lingerie stores, that means men are talking to women about bras or thongs, looking them up and down to determine their cup sizes, even rubbing the underwear to show how stains can be washed out.

But buying them is another story. Fitting rooms are banned in the kingdom — the idea of a woman undressing in a public place with men just outside is unthinkable. So a woman is never sure she has chosen the right size until she gets it home.

“I have bras with sizes ranging from 32 to 38 because I can’t get to try them on,” said Modie Batterjee, Huda’s sister and one of the boycott organizers.

Read more about the women’s boycott of lingerie stores here.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one to have this thought. While race was certainly prevalent on people’s minds during the election, I never had as much of a sensation that Barack Obama was out of place than I had looking at this photograph. Even in a fairly white city like Seattle, there is enough diversity that Barack Obama would fit in just fine. At the debates, he looked like he fit in. On the stump, he looked like he fit in. Our nation no matter how you slice it is pretty diverse and certainly does not match the racial (and gender) ratio of the picture above. It’s startling.

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