Despite having a free copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In sitting on my kitchen table, thanks to the Internet I can skip it and just read critiques by people who tried “leaning in” at Facebook or know the couples mentioned in the book.
Meet The Female Boss, Same as the Male Boss
Facebook is vulnerable to feminist critique on a number of levels: from Facebook’s all-male board up until 2012, to the lopsided distribution of genders (and compensation) across its departments, to the way women’s images drive the site itself, where the most popular content has always been intimate, personal photographs of women. Sandberg’s book, very strategically, makes no mention of feminist critiques of Facebook, and instead imagines a feminist platform where women’s problems with undercompensation and sexism lie in women themselves, thus negating the need to change Facebook’s operations. In this way Sandberg is able to deploy Facebook’s oft-used tactic of building an in-house version of a competitive product, a move traditionally deployed against apps, against competing feminisms.
… For all of its sincere encouragement of individual women, Sandberg’s book does not indicate that her leadership has created deep changes at Facebook, or how deep changes might occur at the companies that she hopes women will run. Since, like any boss, she focuses on pushing women to work harder, it’s hard to see why she would use her position to effect systemic change.
Leaning In Is Mostly Leaning On Nannies
The couples with which Sandberg is familiar seem to be ones in which nannies and cleaners do most of the household and child-related work. Really the marital squabble seems to come down to which parent decides how to spend the near-infinite river of family income on local, organic, vegan, and gluten-free items at Whole Foods. The authors cite a couple in Massachusetts that I actually know. The mom is a bigshot at a non-profit organization. The dad is a child psychiatrist who, according to Sandberg, “leaned in” to do far more than the traditional male share of child rearing. Perhaps he did, but this couple has twins that are about the same age as Greta, my 3.5-year-old, so I see the kids a lot. Of the 50 or so times that I’ve seen the twins, were they with mom or dad? Once they were with mom. Once they were with both parents. 48 times they were with a Brazilian nanny.
No Repercussions For Failure
But in all of the hagiography of Sandberg, it’s worth remembering something. Her big gig in the federal government was as chief of staff from 1996 to 2001 to then Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers […]
It was on the Summers-Sandberg watch that the Clinton Administration promoted and Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which essentially repealed the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that had separated investment banking from the commercial, insured kind. This was, in retrospect, a huge mistake. […]
One of the oddities of the financial crisis how little opprobrium has attached itself to those intimately involved. There’s no social sanction attached to those who were in the vortex.
· · ·
If you enjoyed this post, please join my mailing list