Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Leaning In:

Photo by Jocelyn Wardle, edit by me.

Hello all!

A few weeks ago I finished the brilliant Sheryl Sandberg's business manual, Lean In. Since then I've been desperately TRYING (and I stress, trying) to get into J.K Rowling's the Casual Vacancy, but this morning I was struck, yet again, by how poignant the messages in Sandberg's book are.

A little while ago Elle published THIS article about Sandberg and her book, the article touches on how Lean In can aid women in the workplace - whether they've been slowly climbing the ladder for years, or have just graduated University/College and are making their foray into the business world. While reading the article I realised, I never reviewed this book on my blog! Uh-oh, rookie error, especially considering how deeply moving and important I found it.

The sub-heading of Sheryl Sandberg's manifesto (and business bible, we could say) is 'Women, work and the will to lead' and throughout the relatively short text, Sandberg draws some eye-opening (or not-so, depending on your experience) conclusions about the female role in the workplace and why the gender-gap still exists despite all those power suits and talk of breaking down glass ceilings and pink ghettos back in the nineties.

One major difference between men and women and how well they assert themselves in positions of power has to do with that old constant, the 'nature VS nurture' argument, but not in the contrived way you might think. Sandberg suggests that NURTURE plays a massive role in the lack of women leading today's workplace.

You see, it's hard out there for a pimp woman (thanks Biggie!) We actually do have quite a bit more to overcome when it comes to accepting leadership roles. There are SO many messages out there, throughout all sorts of different forms of media, which STILL suggest that a woman's role is to sit pretty in the corner, play receptionist who paints her nails while on the phone, and NOT to lean in to the talk, the table, the changes being made about leadership, business and strategy in front of her. Our society is still operating (albeit in a much more muted sense) in that old 1950's mindset where being a woman means being a nurturing, nice, traditionally 'feminine' figure who does carpool and cooks dinner and would never dream of asserting herself into a leadership position, Ever! (The scandal!)

In television and film actresses are rarely the opposite of stunningly beautiful, it's rare for a woman to manage to score a huge acting role on looks alone. Age plays a major determining factor in who gets 'leading lady' roles, dynamic female characters with more on their minds than landing a bloke are hard to come by, in real life women who have lots of non-monogamous sex are labelled 'sluts', people STILL assume sexual assault occurs in part to the survivors fault; many people assume assertive women are bitches; and how often do magazines, and even books, end the story of a romance between two partners with a re-imagining of the old 'knight in shining armour, oooh I'll never have to work again now that Mr Big's bought me a shiny new apartment!' tale (sorry, I do not like SATC. Sue me.)

Gender bias is a real thing. No, don't roll your eyes I say! Gender bias is a thing because of that eye-rolling behaviour! Because we have not accepted it, wholly, as a societal norm. We must acknowledge and accept our wrongs! We must try harder to be the former in the below Excerpt from Lean In:

"My own attempts to point out gender bias have generated more than my fair share of eye rolling from others. At best, people are open to scrutinizing themselves and considering their blind spots; at worst, they become defensive and angry. One common instance of bias crops up during job performance evaluations. When reviewing a woman, the reviewer will often voice the concern, 'While she's really good at her job, she's just not well-liked by her peers.'" (Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg PP 154)

After we ACCEPT gender bias, we need to combat it. To curb it. To stop making assumptions about women in the workplace (and ANY OTHER place). We need to accept that some of our assumptions, thoughts, emotions and actions come from a perceived idea of how the world works based on certain messages we have been sent by parts of our society. It's hard to turn around centuries of ingrained ideas that have been flying at us from all corners (parents, friends, books, the news, to name just a few) but if we concentrate I am sure that we can educate the next generation to do better, and into a future where we will no longer NEED feminism as much as we do today.

Again, Sandberg's book is poignant reading, philosophical even, in recognising the faulty tools society has been plied with and handing them back with a polite, 'no, sorry, I know how to do this better.'

You can watch my latest Youtube video (it's all about deconstructing messages & turning them into new, better ones!) below:

Thank you for reading.

Xo, Ellen