Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Wider View of Women Leaders

I have an issue with this article, in fact, the whole premise of the video it points to.


Sheryl Sandberg - a woman in a very influential, if not powerful, position narrowly defines a woman leader to be someone that is (a) in the C suite (or runs her own company) or (b) holds political office. May I just say I find this view to be incredibly narrow? And not just on one level but on two.

I know many women who are leaders. They lead pre-school classes and field trips, they lead PTAs and fund drives, Sunday schools, home schools and manage budgets. They lead and train future generations (both boys and girls) to be upstanding and productive members of their workplace and their community. These women are leaders.

They train their daughters to be smart as they are pretty. They teach them to be independent, to provide for themselves, to choose careers that best suit their aims and goals, to be great girlfriends and wives should they choose to be married. These women are leaders.

I know, that's not "the same" as running a company. Correct. It's even more important. Let me ask you something, how do most political parties run winning campaigns? Right. They start at the grassroots. Interpersonal relationships to build knowledge and understanding of the candidates goals. They start with the individual and build the movement. *That* is what many hundreds of millions of women leaders do every day. It's part of the nurturing nature that's built into women. It's why there is hearth, home and family. It's why nations stay strong, because when they loose that, republics and empires fall.

Ms. Sandberg also fails to consider that the reason why there aren't more women leaders is that, in fact, many women - as a "career choice" - choose to spend time as stay at home mothers. They choose to use their degrees, their knowledge, their education to influence those who are most important to them, those who will carry their values forward - their children. Because of that choice they give up their "career paths" to the C suite because it does not have the same value to them. It's not because they can't do it, it's because they *choose* not to do it.

I believe that every woman should have the equal opportunity to succeed in any career they choose to. I don't know that it is always the case, but I think that if every barrier were taken away, every angle tilted in favor of a women getting a promotion, the percentage would still be skewed. The best jobs I've worked in, I've reported to women. I know they can do great things and any intelligent person can tell you the same thing. It's a question of "want to." And, it's obvious that so far, women don't want to.

Hold your horses - don't go flipping out on me. Anyone remember woman's suffrage? That ring a bell for you? Right. Women wanted the right to vote. Did the old boy network stop them? Damn sure it didn't. And that's just one example, but it serves my point. If women want something they're going to get it. They're smart and capable, and if we don't know that, then we need to open our eyes, and Ms. Sandberg needs to open hers too.

You may be wondering, "What does this have to do with being a great dad?" It has everything to do with being a great dad. As you'll see in upcoming posts, one of the things I believe strongly in is that in order to be a brilliant father, the critical relationship that must be solid, loving and established is the one between husband and wife. If I don't respect my wife as my partner, if I don't think all the things I've stated in the above paragraphs about my wife and my children's mother then my kids aren't going to respect her either. They won't treat her properly and therefore will loose the benefits of a healthy and loving maternal relationship. And so, I would not be a great dad.

Well, as it turns out, I do believe all of the above. I believe my wife is a great leader. I trust her to be home with my children (my most precious treasure) every day. I believe that my wife could run a Fortune 500 company if she choose - she's smart enough. She can and does lead every day. She does team building, motivation, financials and both short and long term planning every day. She's optimizing, scheduling, negotiating as much as anyone in a C suite - it's just that she only happens to be *my* CFO, not some companies.

So, let's not be narrow in our view of what a leader is. My wife is a powerful leader, and she chose to be the powerful leader she is in the place she believed her leadership would be most beneficial. Let's not discount that choice because she's not drawing a salary or working for some 23 year old genius, OK? Her choice of where to lead is as valid, challenging and rewarding as someone holding office or sitting in a board room. We should respect, honor and applaud that choice.

1 comment:

  1. First, I disagree - we don't have so few women leaders. Perhaps, Sheryl is just looking for leaders in all the wrong places. I'm sure she had good intentions though.

    Second, I agree with you. Leaders lead in many different ways. It's not about what job you hold. Many women choose to volunteer, be philanthropists, be mentors and/or become mothers. It's not all about running a company or leading an organization.