Want to see more women Lean In? Start with your company's culture.
Baby Shower last year for Laura Hodge and Kim Siebecker: Celebrating two baby boys to come!
By now, most of us have read or are familiar with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. It’s a groundbreaking essay that asks why so few highly talented women have gained positions as highly ranked business leaders. It dares to look beyond the ingrained corporate double-standard by embracing ambition and promoting fearlessness in women.
Much of the book puts the onus on women to seize opportunities and assert themselves on their way to securing their seat “at the table.”
I’m all for “girl power” (just ask my feminist-in-training, 12-year-old daughter), but I believe, if we truly want to support women and see equality in the workplace, we need to be honest and admit that women still manage the bulk of work as it relates to child and parental care. The challenge of life/work balance for women is very real. It’s a challenging maneuver, to be a successful professional while balancing an infant in one arm and tending to an elderly parent with the other. And those responsibilities at home can be a very real barrier to promotions and income growth as women move in and out of the workforce in an effort to balance both.
It’s no wonder that, as Sandberg states, although women now earn more college degrees than men, “continue to outpace men in educational achievement,” and are entering more fields previously dominated by men, they hold only “14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.”
"I'm proud to work for a woman-owned company that gets it."
In order for the Lean In movement and women to succeed, employers must adapt their policies toward supporting valuable staff in balancing life, both in and outside the office.
I’m proud and blessed to work for a woman-owned company that gets that. AMPED has developed a culture where hard work and results are the expectation, but not to the detriment of family and self. It’s essential that our staff know they have the autonomy to do what they need to do for their families so they can concentrate on delivering exceptional results for our clients.
For instance, when school is unexpectedly closed due to dangerous weather conditions (we live in Wisconsin, after all), we have the flexibility to work from home. When an elderly parent is ill, we can take off at a moment’s notice and know that we have the support of the entire staff behind us. When there are doctors’ appointments, broken furnaces or sick kids, we all understand that life comes first.
There is an expectation that the work gets done — and then some — but there is no clock to punch and no judgment. It’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Respect and trust your employees and they’ll deliver their best in return.
I truly believe that finding and nailing life/work balance is the key to empowering women. Support from family is essential. But employers can play an even larger role toward that dream of equality.