Women’s Feet

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, gives an engaging and thought-provoking TED talk on why she thinks so few women are in leadership roles in business or politics. I agree with many of her points, but I think there is a key ingredient she left out of her discussion. Watch the talk here.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sheryl that women and girls are shy about standing up and telling the world how great they are. As girls, we are taught at a young age to minimize our achievements for the sake of fitting in. We do not learn to celebrate our victories because that might make someone else feel bad. It is a skill to learn to speak up when you have an idea. To just plainly state ‘I have a great idea and here it is’. More often though women either say nothing at all or something like ‘umm, I had an idea… I think it might work… are you busy’. Confidence and self-esteem are crucial to women in the workplace.

Sheryl makes an excellent point that women need a lot more motivation to leave their kids at daycare to return to work. She says that need a job they love in order to leave their babies to continue their career. Where I diverge from her message, is the role of children in women’s lives. I agree that women in the workforce is a very important thing. But I also know from my own experience that there are very few things that have priority over my child.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, my son was just over a year old. I am very fortunate to have one of those brave husbands, who have the courage to break tradition and stay at home with our son. My decision to return to work was largely a practical one, but was made infinitely easier knowing that my baby was well cared for by his daddy. Many women are not so lucky, and have to face the worry that their childcare facility is safe and fun for their little ones. This fact alone means that women that are in lower-income jobs could be going back to work because they have no choice, and women that are in higher income jobs could have the luxury of choosing to stay home. The crucial point in all of this is that true liberation is the power to choose.

The next step forward is not just having a better job to go back to, but to actually creating the work that propels us out the door and fuels our hearts. Working moms need a creative, productive outlet where we gain a sense of significance and a feeling that we are making the world a better place. For me, that means having my own company and creating the job of my dreams in my ‘off’ hours. For others it might mean having their ideas acknowledged and encouraged at work and at home. What might it mean for you?

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