By the time she describes the pangs of guilt as a mother working outside the home — some of her most poignant passages — it is impossible to forget that she, like many of the female friends she quotes, is a wealthy, white, married woman with a “vast support system.” Surely she could have included a story or two about successful women who are more likely to have been born to nannies than to hire them. Or at least more who didn’t graduate from the Ivy League.
Sandberg barely mentions the millions of single mothers in the workplace. She does, however, advise women on how to find a supportive spouse — who, in her book, is almost always male. Ambitious lesbians will have to find their tutorial elsewhere. “When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys,” Sandberg writes. “But do not marry them.”
So, how to find the right guy? Sandberg turns to Kristina Salen, an executive with Fidelity who devised a two-tiered test to determine whether a boyfriend would support her career. First, Salen canceled a date because of work. If the guy kept his cool, she proceeded to test No. 2: Was he willing to join her on a work trip — to Sao Paulo, Brazil? That’ll weed out the losers, not to mention most men on the planet.
Sandberg encourages women to act more like men. She quotes her longtime mentor Larry Summers, who once advised his tax lawyer wife, Vicki, to “bill like a boy.” “His view was that the men considered any time they spent thinking about an issue — even time in the shower — as billable hours,” Sandberg writes. “His wife and her female colleagues, however, would decide that they were not at their best on a given day and discount hours they spent at their desks to be fair to the client.”
Sandberg asks: “Which lawyers were more valuable to their firm?”
My question: When did personal integrity become a character flaw?
At 172 pages of text, “Lean In” is a short book, much of it a rehash of Sandberg’s 2010TED Talk titled “Why we have too few women leaders.” The video of that talk went viral, catapulting Sandberg into the fray of feminist debate. Her critics say she heaps too much blame on women, but that is too simplistic. At 43, Sandberg is young enough to remember the youthful confidence of her generation of women and old enough to see how it has withered since graduation. They were equal competitors with men in college. Not so in their careers.