We have a diversity initiative going at SchoolWorks, and I think of this as a way to ensure that we are having conversations which move our team forward in our understanding and practice. After a couple of ‘sessions’ with my colleagues I am even more motivated to have honest conversations with folks and talking openly about our working relationship as men, women, black, white, Asian, gay and straight and all of the other variables of our SchoolWorks team.

 

This is partly why I read Lean In, which was recommended to me by a female colleague. And I’ve learned that talking about the concepts that the author, Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, presents can be controversial. I liken it to bringing up charter schools in a group of unknown educators or perhaps even talking about a political agenda at a cocktail party. But here goes.

 

One of the major themes of the book is that women should “lean in” to their career and remove some of their own self-imposed barriers to leadership. While acknowledging all of the institutionalized sexism and the fact that women make on average only 77 cents to the dollar of men, she chooses to focus on encouraging women to make their way to leadership. The author acknowledges her critics in the book, and there are many critiques of this overall message. A few of them are found here:  New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post. One metaphor from the Lean In critics is the charge for women to give themselves permission to “lean back” and recognize that you cannot do it all.

I won’t ever fully understand the perspective of a woman in the workplace, but this book helped me to understand that I have a role in creating a more inclusive environment. For me the book provided perspective about what women face in the workplace and in households. The idea that women pay “a bitch tax” when they are ambitious is a very real issue. As a man I have more flexibility, I think, to break gender stereotypes.

 

I identified with much of what the author shared. What’s interesting to me is that I have many stereotypical ‘female’ traits such as a lack of confidence at times. She talks about how men are generally much more confident and that research says that they will apply for jobs if they have something like 50% of the skills required while women will not apply until they have 100%. She shares instances when she felt like a fraud – self-conscious and not deserving – even amidst success. I fully identify.

 

I do think that we have a unique team at SchoolWorks because there are so many strong female leaders in our organization. I also think that we can get better at defining our work culture and that that might help both men and women in our organization.

 

I heard the author’s call for men to lean in, and to help out with the “second shift” of taking care of the household in the evenings, raising children, etc. And to be honest, I don’t do my fair share of the housework. Yes I do the dishes, but I could do much more to help out my wife and to provide an example for my two daughters.

 

I also heard the call for men to help women tone down the 24/7 work culture that we live in. One of the best parts about SchoolWorks is that we have some flexibility in how we complete our work. Often working from home, we can choose when to work and schedule our work around other commitments such as bringing kids to school, etc. At the same time, however, we live in a culture when we are always connected through email and text.

 

Lean In is a great read and has helped me to think more deeply about gender diversity in the workplace.

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