Mr. Mom and Mrs. CEO
I never would have predicted we'd be reading Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg's new book about women's leadership, in our men's group at church but here we are. I told my co-leader that I have strong opinions about feminism and though my views aren't completely negative, I'm skeptical on the claims of the self-empowerment movement. I'm simply not buying all of the gender equality argument. However when my co-leader suggested the book as a way of getting to know women better, I couldn't back down on the challenge of a dissenting viewpoint.
We have a neat group of guys in this club. They have made unique parenting decisions. Two of the men spent two years full-time at home each raising his young son. They felt it made a positive impact on their sons and had no regrets about the experience. One dad was unemployed so it wasn't voluntary. But the other chose to stay home from work and the women in his office were incredulous. They asked him why he wanted to do this. My feeling is that women (and especially moms) felt threatened by this dad's decision. In my opinion, his decision made these moms feel insecure about how they parent their own children. On the other hand, none of his male coworkers commented on his lengthy sabbatical.
We also watched Sandberg's TEDtalk, of which her book is based on. Her speech is humorous, insightful, and poignant. Unsurprisingly though, I didn't feel convinced by her argument. Sandberg observed that women are vastly underrepresented at the top of corporations. She said that as a society our goal should be to help women become 50% of CEOs.
One question is whether I feel threatened by Mrs. CEO the way certain women felt threatened by Mr. Mom. I don't think I do. I might be jealous or envious of a woman's abilities but my feelings are not unique based on one's gender. I might also stereotype any woman CEO as unyielding and controlling (similar to the Heidi/Howard Harvard case study Sandberg references). But I don't think I would be threatened. Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to male privilege, I'm not so sure.
In any case, a member of our group asked why it's so important for women to be equally represented in corporate boardrooms since Sandberg didn't explain why in her talk. Our homework this week is to ask a woman and get her opinion on why this goal is so critical. I asked two young women their thoughts and they responded that they didn't think this was a worthy goal. It's not that they were against women leadership. Rather they wondered why women's leadership has to take on such a narrow metric. Why do you think 50% female representation among corporate chiefs is so important?