I suspect I am just as weary of the buzz over Sheryl Sandberg as everyone else with a TV in their kitchen, Internet access at work, or a radio in their car.
During the past two weeks alone, Sandberg has been interviewed by 60 Minutes, The Diane Rehm Show, The Washington Post, National Public Radio and other media outlets too numerous to cite, reaching well over 50 million people. She has been the subject of at least 43 million blogs, articles, Instagram posts and Twitter comments.
So I’ll make this quick: one observation everyone else seems to have overlooked.
Sheryl Sandberg, the uber-successful, 2-Harvard-degree, joyfully married, mother of two, millions-of-dollars- in-the-bank COO of Facebook, the same woman who claims other women need to “lean in” and try harder at work, is the most insecure woman on the planet.
Here’s what she says about herself:
- She was “embarrassed” to be voted most likely to succeed at North Miami Beach Senior High
- She’s “intimidated” by stay-at-home moms
- She is ashamed and “afraid” to admit publicly that she leaves her office at 5.30 pm to be with her kids
- Her success is due to her boss, 28-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, a man 15 years her junior, with no kids and zero experience balancing work and family
- Her negotiating skills are due to her husband’s coaching
- She thought it was “silly” and “absurd” when Forbes Magazine ranked her as the 5th most powerful woman in the world in 2011
Yuck, Sheryl! What gives? Are you really that wimpy?
Or does our corporate culture demand that successful female executives pretend to be insecure and self-abnegating, and to credit their success to the powerful men in their lives? Are we seeing the professional equivalent of the prom queen who says “I’m so fat and my nose is too big” to diffuse others’ jealousies? Is there no room in our world for an openly competitive, powerful, strong and successful woman (besides Hillary)?
Say it ain’t so, Sheryl!
Successful women are supposed to shout it from the rooftops! You’re smart, well-adjusted, emotionally secure, happily married, attractive. You’ve got it all! Women like you are supposed to roar, not purr.
As much as I admire Sandberg and her success, and agree with much of her Lean In advice, the idea that this self-deprecating apologist is a role model for our daughters makes me feel like I swallowed a swivel chair. The disconnect between the powerful message and its submissive delivery confuses and disheartens me. It goes against every feminist mantra I grew up hearing.
Maybe that’s the real message she has for the rest of us.
Sheryl Sandberg is working a clever new spin on President Theodore Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” advice. Maybe this is THE answer for women at work. Lean in hard – but pretend you’re not even trying! It has certainly paid off fabulously for Sheryl Sandberg.