There is much to admire in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. It is full of funny stories about her brilliant career and helpful advice for workplace success. As former chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department and vice-president of Google, and now COO of Facebook, the 43-year-old billionaire and mother of two has a lot of worldly wisdom to share. She is right that many women sell themselves short and pull back too early from their careers. Sandberg urges them to man up.
But this otherwise likeable and inspirational self-help book has a serious flaw: It is mired in 1970s-style feminism. Nation magazine columnist Katha Pollitt compares Sandberg to “someone who’s just taken Women’s Studies 101 and wants to share it with her friends.” What Pollitt intends as a compliment goes to the heart of what is wrong with Lean In.
Sandberg envisions a time where gender roles all but disappear. “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”
If men ran half the homes in our country and women ran half the countries, would 50% of men gain custody of their children or half of the wife’s assets in a divorce? Because until the legalities of marriage are equal for men, these words are just grandstanding.