The PJ Tatler

The Idiocy of 'Leaning In' and Thinking You'll Win Because You're a Woman

Laugh as the New Yorker attempts to trumpet the struggles of professional women through the story of an academic who grounded her negotiating skills in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In:

This spring, an aspiring professor—W, as she’s chosen to call herself in a blog post about the experience—attempted to negotiate her tenure-track job offer with the Nazareth College philosophy department. She wanted a slightly higher salary than the starting offer, paid maternity leave for one semester, a pre-tenure sabbatical, a cap on the number of new classes that she would teach each semester, and a deferred starting date. “I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others,” she acknowledged in her e-mail. “Let me know what you think.”

Nazareth didn’t hesitate to do just that: W wrote that the college promptly let her know that she was no longer welcome. “The institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you,” the terse reply concluded. “We wish you the best in finding a suitable position.”

What a dope.

Head over to Nazareth College’s website and you’ll learn rather quickly via their faculty manual that most of the items she attempted to “negotiate” are already set in stone, most likely via union negotiation and past practice. Regarding her “paid maternity leave” request, Nazareth’s policy is generous to say the least. Fully paid disability period, ability to apply paid time off towards FMLA, and the ability to request up to 2 semesters of leave without pay, “but with paid employee basic health insurance and major medical insurance only to which the faculty member would otherwise be entitled”. That’s one heck of a good faith investment put forth on behalf of the college for new parents (moms and dads) to stay at home for up to a year.

As far as a “pre-tenure sabbatical” goes, this woman apparently hasn’t worked a day in academia in her life. She’s applying for a tenure-track position. Time worked is what allows you to accrue tenure. A sabbatical doesn’t count towards time worked, so essentially she just asked them to delay her own job advancement so she could have paid time off to wander the libraries of the world. Combine that with the class cap request and ask how either measure, both of which illustrate a total lack of work ethic, would possibly work to her advantage?

Higher salary within reason? Sure. Lean in all you want. Deferred start date? Depends on the circumstances. But before you decide to negotiate a first job based on the musings of a high-level executive, try reading about the job for which you’re actually negotiating. Or, just whine to the world that your demands were rejected because you’re a woman. That’s much more empowering.