In her new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells women they need to “lean in,” embrace success and self-confidence, take charge of their careers. But the problem is not just women themselves, she says - it’s ingrained societal prejudices. Girls who are assertive are called “bossy,” writes Sandberg, and women who lead in the workplace are seen as aggressive and unlikeable. Despite the gains made by the feminist movement, women are still not making it to the top boardrooms in parity with their male colleagues; they should be forging ahead, acquiring mentors, demanding promotions and shattering stereotypes.
The backlash has been instantaneous. Critics point out that Sandberg has wealth and privilege on her side, that she has been “lucky” to have powerful men to smooth her way and that she’s balanced career and motherhood with the help of nannies. So how much of a role model can she be?
There’s also the question of whether “leaning in” will make much of a difference as long as corporations continue to be resistant to changes that will enable women to rise to the top. Are Sandberg’s ideas realistic? Should she be using her platform to inspire change in the business climate, rather than in individuals? Fifty years after the birth of the feminist movement, are women still paying a price to climb the corporate ladder? And what about men - will they ever be able to choose family over career, or are they just as trapped in their role of breadwinner?
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, one of the world's leading gender consulting firms, and author of "How Women Mean Business: A Step by Step Guide to Profiting from Gender Balanced Business" (Wiley, 2010)
Brett Singer, formerly worked in public relations, now a stay-at-home dad whose wife is the "breadwinner". He's also the editor of Daddytips.com.