Earlier this week I listened to BBC Radio 4’s excellent “You and Yours”*, hosted by the equally impressive Julian Worricker. The focus was on women in the workplace, prompted by the publication on 12 March of Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”.
Now, I haven’t read the book in full yet (although I’ve just downloaded it onto my Kindle), but have devoured several excerpts from it that have been printed over the weekend. I’ve been struck by how much praise - and vitriol – has been heaped upon it pre-publication, in the press and online.
For example, many people are keen to point out that Sandberg, with annual earnings in excess of $30 million, a husband who is also a CEO (of Survey Monkey) and who appeared at number five in Forbes’ 2011 “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list, couldn’t possibly empathise with “normal” women – and men – whose careers are less stellar than hers.
Yet, she talks about her horror at Forbes’ accolade and how embarrassed and exposed she felt. Rather than accepting colleagues’ thanks, she pronounced the list “ridiculous”. She cites her executive assistant, Camille Hart, who had to step in and tell her that she was handling the situation poorly, demonstrating how uncomfortable – and insecure – she felt, and that she needed to stop that, now.
Sandberg and her assistant obviously have a remarkable relationship. After all, that’s not the easiest kind of feedback to give a colleague, especially a senior one. Reading this vignette, I was struck by how typical an example that is of many women’s thinking styles - minimising achievements, professing embarrassment, refusing to talk about them (and how that has the potential to hold them back) - as ones that we come across often in our training and coaching work.
In fact, these themes – and more – have come up so frequently that we’ve decided to partner up with Strictly Recruitment and offer an event** open to anyone who’s interested in talking and thinking about this with others who are too. It will offer an opportunity to pause and think about what they might do differently, whether for themselves and/or colleagues.
It’s not going to be a tub-thumping rant about the iniquities that women are subjected to. Rather, it’s going to be a practical, enjoyable session looking at the ways and means in which women sometimes sell themselves short, or trip themselves up – and thinking about what the alternatives are. We’d love to see you there – details are at the end of this post.
Incidentally – there are 150 places available, and if you’ve read Russell’s Remarks this week about big audience speaking, you’ll understand that as much as Michael and I are looking forward to getting up on the stage and “strutting our stuff”, come the day we’ll be simultaneously nervous, raring to go and wishing it was all over. But – when it goes well, it really is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
*Listen again to this programme via the BBC iPlayer – search for “You and Yours” and the date was 12 March.
**Running in London (and very kindly hosted by prestigious law firm Simmons & Simmons) on 23 April 2013, from 6.30 – 8.30 pm. Interested? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a place.
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about the author
Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.