Three Ways for Grandma to Support the Hard Decisions in the Advancement of Working Mothers

This Grandma was NOT going to comment on Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting at Yahoo! Inc and to require all employees to report to the office.  Yes, she is a working mother, as well as a CEO.   However, she was made CEO to be a leader and turn a major company around.  Sometimes hard times make hard decisions.

Of course, columnists have made this a working women’s issue, alleging this is the new fight in the “mommy wars.”  Now, a Miami Herald columnist, Leonard Pitts, Jr., on Sunday, March 10, 2013, says “there’s another reason we should be debating  Mayer’s policy:  Some people simply work better alone.”  He seems to make this a war of extroverts against introverts.  He says “she has certainly bought into the one-size-fits-all mentality which says productivity and creativity are found when colleagues meet at the water cooler – and only there. “

working womenThat makes sense to this Grandma.  There should be no one-size-fits-all  mentality about anything.   We should think flexibility in life.  The older we get the more we realize we can never say never.  Change is difficult, but inevitable.  Yes, we need to make hard decisions in hard times.  But, as a mentor of mine wisely told me in my youth, “sometimes practice does not make perfect, sometimes practice makes permanent.”  It’s the fear that Marissa Mayer’s decision that the change she is advocating is a permanent one that seems to be fueling the fire.  I did not take her decision as one of permanence.  After all, she is a leader.  Leaders, to succeed, must adapt to the times.  Nothing is permanent to a true leader.  It seems that Marissa Mayer is doing the job she was hired to do—lead and turn around a corporation.  We should be supporting her decision, letting it unfold, and allowing her to adapt her decision as she sees if it makes a difference.

There is another young woman and mother from whom we are now hearing.  She has a new book, “Lean in.”  The author, Sheryl Sandberg, is the female face of leadership at Facebook.  Barbara Ortutay, of the Associated Press, reported in the Miami Herald on March 8, 2013, that the book is “part feminist manifesto, part how-to-career guide” and “has a lot of people talking.”  Again the merits of a young woman leader’s position are being bashed.  Ms. Ortutay quotes, “New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Sandberg a “Power-Point Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots,” and countless bloggers have suggested that Facebook’s chief operating officer is the wrong person to lead a women’s movement.”

Here is where Ms Ortutay goes wrong.  She asks, “but is the multi-millionaire with two Harvard degrees too rich to offer advice?  Too successful?  Does her blueprint for success ignore the plight of the poor and working-class women?  Does the book’s very premise blame women for not rising to top executive positions at the same rate as men?”

What!  Who should be a role model for young working women and mothers—Honey Boo Boo’s mother?

This Grandma loves that Sheryl Sandberg has risen to the top and still puts family first.  Ms. Ortutay states, “And she is no workaholic.  In an age of endless work hours, Sandberg is famous for leaving the office at 5:30 to spend time with her family.  She does admit, however, to picking up work once her kids have gone to bed.”  This Grandma has seen both of her professional daughters do the same, and often.  But, we know the new studies on productivity show we should work smart, not hard, and women are suited to be able to adapt and be productive without the eighteen hour days of old.

This Grandma loves the message that Sheryl Sandberg is giving young working mothers: push past fear.  Ms. Ortutay quotes Ms. Sandberg: “Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face,” Ms. Sandberg states. “Fear of not being liked.  Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of overreaching.  Fear of being judged.  Fear of failure.  And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.”

Again we hear that the Fortune 500 has only 21 female CEOs, and Ms. Sandberg is among the 14% of women who hold executive officer positions and the 16% of women who hold board of director seats.  We hear that women of color hold only 4% of the top corporate jobs and 3% of board seats.  So?  It is only 2012.  Wait another decade.  This too will change.  Remember, the studies show in a decade 75% of households will have a woman as the breadwinner in the family!

Why is Grandma addressing this now when Grandma intended not to?  Three reasons:

  1.  It is wrong for anyone to remain silent and not support the future leaders in our grandchildren’s world.
  2. Those of us who are professionals as well as grandmas need to continue to mentor the future leaders in our grandchildren’s world.
  3. We Grandmas need to take up the slack and be the coverage for our grandchildren in our support of the future leaders in our grandchildren’s world.

So, what does Sheryl Sandberg say that we Grandmas should pay heed to and tell young men and women we mentor?  Barbara Ortutay quotes her:

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.  I believe that this would be a better world,” she [Ms. Sandberg] writes. “The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve.”

Ms. Ortutay concludes:

In the end, “Lean in,” is a call to action to make it easier for women to become leaders.  It’s a call for women to take space at the table, raise their hands, speak up and step up.  It’s a personal account of a woman who, through talent, luck and ambition but also with plenty of internal and external obstacles, managed to do that.”

This Grandma could not have become a successful professional without a supportive husband.  Sheryl Sandberg acknowledges her supportive husband.  This Grandma could not have become a successful professional without supportive grandparents who were there when two working parents needed them to care for our daughters.  Ms. Sandberg does not mention supportive Grandmas.  But let us Grandmas become that support behind the scenes that improves the lives of our grandchildren while we nurture the future leaders in our grandchildren’s world.

Now is the time for we Grandmas to step up and be vocal that we all need to give change a chance.  We need to make it easier for the next generation of working mothers and fathers to become leaders.  We need to mentor the young men and women and support them in their hard decisions and the change in a difficult time.  We need to help with child care and emotional support to the working mothers and fathers of our grandchildren.

Now here is something really controversial to ponder.  We have heard that men’s working style is like a pyramid, each fighting to be at the top of the pyramid while women’s working style is like a circle, each including others on the way to the top of the pyramid.  This Grandma has three grandsons.  I hope this holds true.  We need the future women leaders, who studies show are going to be the majority, to remain true to their leadership style so our grandsons are included in the future leadership.

As we support the hard decisions in the advancement of working mothers in the new future leadership, we are acknowledging that change is difficult, but adaptation is a must.  We Grandmas wait, watch, and, most of all, contribute our time and support with

Joy,

Mema

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