The Backlash Against Sheryl Sandberg Is Already Starting

Sheryl Sandberg backlashAlthough Sheryl Sandberg's manifesto, Lean In, was just published Monday, it already is generating a torrent of debate -- much of it among female professionals who complain they feel left out of Sandberg's vision of success in the corporate world.

"The very blunt truth is that men still run the world," Sandberg, Facebook's Harvard-educated chief operating officer, said in an interview with 60 Minutes. "I'm not blaming women...but there is a lot more we can do." Sandberg, 43, has ignited controversy in part because she argues that women are held back their inner doubts and that they need to "lean in" to their careers, rather than worrying about how they'll juggle work and children. "Most leadership positions are held by men, so women don't expect to achieve them, and that becomes one of the reasons they don't."

So far, the backlash against Sandberg falls into three camps.

Being at the top still often means foregoing a 'life'
One of the most poignant critiques came from one of Wall Street's most successful women, Erin Callan, the former CFO of Lehman Brothers. In a candid essay for The New York Times published Sunday, Callan wrote about her regrets of keeping a "singular focus" on her career, saying it wrecked her marriage and led her to forego having children.


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"I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn't have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor," she wrote. At 47, she says she and her new husband are trying to conceive through in-vitro fertilization and now says she sees an upside to Lehman's collapse. "Without the crisis, I may never have been strong enough to step away" from her all-consuming professional life, she wrote.

More: Why Is There No Female Steve Jobs?

Sandberg has too narrow a vision of success
Sandberg has two children, however, and what appears to be a fairy tale marriage, with an equally successful husband whom she says shares household responsibilities equally. Mary Louise Kelly, a former Pentagon correspondent for NPR, writes of "hitting the wall" when she got a call that her 4-year-old son was having trouble breathing, and Kelly was in Baghdad, covering a story. Soon after she quit her job. "With sincere and enormous respect for the accomplishment of superwomen like Sheryl Sandberg," she writes in The Daily Beast, "I wonder if there isn't room for a more expansive definition of female professional success." Now that she is a novelist and writes from home a few hours a day, she says she wonders, "should we automatically assume that the woman running the company is doing more with her life than the woman who has negotiated a three-day week?

Can you be a devoted parent and a successful CEO?
Penelope Trunk, the career coach and founder of Brazen Careerist, compared the adulatory profiles of Sheryl Sandberg to women's magazine's features on rail-thin Hollywood actresses: They make women feel bad because they can't possibly measure up. "Sheryl Sandberg gives up her kids like movie stars give up food: She wants a great career more than anything else." Trunk, who home-schools her children and stepped off the fast track, also argues that "high performers in corporate life are so much more focused than everyone else in the workforce that it's time we stopped selling a false bill of goods; almost no one can be singularly focused to get to the top of anything."

More: Ex-Facebook Worker Describes Booze-Filled, Frat-Boy Antics

Of course, Sandberg's book only was published today, so the question arises: Have any of these critics actually read Lean In? How does Trunk know, for instance, that Sandberg isn't an involved parent? She doesn't say. But GigaOM distributed review copies to its female editors, and overall, their response was positive; they said they were inspired by her message that women should be more confident and dream big.

Sandberg, who has had a carefully orchestrated media blitz around her book, has indicated she expects criticism and doesn't mind it. "I welcome a reaction," she was quoted as saying. "If nothing was said, that would be disappointing."


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Pam is the editor-in-chief of AOL Jobs.

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mickrussom

This woman is a fool. She is a lucky, lucky fool. She cant just be a lucky billionaire. No. She has to regular woman to destroy themselves to get more money in this rigged farcical system. Sheryl, get out of the limelight you lucky retard.

July 01 2013 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
houdinisblind

Speaking in general terms: men have failed women. Especially for the women who gave up having children, got divorced, etc.
Generally, it's not all women s fault.

April 11 2013 at 8:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to houdinisblind's comment
mickrussom

No, the family unit has been destroyed by the mental disability known as liberalism.

July 01 2013 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
investrman

Everything about Facebook was a scam ponzi scheme from the get-go!

The Insiders ripped off gullible retail investors and many got out of paying IRS taxes on selling their stock right after IPO even!

They all support Obama's liberal agenda and have allowed Facebook to be usedto single out anyone who is not liberal to the core and be "spied upon" by Obama people....

March 14 2013 at 8:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Tonya

this type of narcissim is a perfect example of people today in general. disgusting article. demeaning for sure..... no matter what the person below said. The "feel compelled"to think you have the answers to achievement when you were merely in the right place at the right time.... is just immature!!

March 14 2013 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
billh7

An intelligent, articulate woman tends to bring out the nay-sayers. Happened with Palin, it's happening with Sandberg.

March 13 2013 at 10:33 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to billh7's comment
ME

Let me know when the book gets written by the gal who worked her way up at a car dealership and is now CEO or dealership owner. Doesn't count if it is an inheritance.

March 13 2013 at 9:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
lklex

And, why can't men also have it all? Enough with all the double standards.

March 13 2013 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Debbie L. Wagner

Having it "all" is hard. Being a mom is my most rewarding career, I was also self employed as an interior designer and set my schedule. It's not devastating if you give more time to your family than your boss - guess who will honor, admire, respect you and appreciate you the most?! Another option for young women is to discuss with your spouse a fair parenting arrangement where both of you have to take even amounts of time away from your work to care for children. I always told my husband (tongue in cheek) "if you divorce me don't think for a minute that Im going to take the kids while you play with 20 somethings - you take the kids, you make more money! LOL! Married 25 years now! LOL!

March 13 2013 at 7:32 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Why are so many Harvard educated people idiots, jerks (or both?). People are different and no one person has the breadth of knowledge to be able to see everything though someone else's eyes. She should concentrate on making Facebook a pleasurable experience and not wrtiing self help books.

March 13 2013 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment
Richard

I have learned to never be impressed with Harvard folks. They are highly responsible for a lot of the sub prime mess we got into, mainly for passing on risk instead of dealing head on with it. This was reported in the Economist. Give me someone that has run a lemonade stand over these types any day. Business comes from the heart, not from a school. The best business people I have met have zero schooling and a lot of horse sense. Something the Ivy League totally lacks.

April 06 2013 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom

The richer people get the smarter they think they are. This woman is a perfect example. Micheal Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, who has decreed that sodas should be no bigger than 16 ounces and that people shouldn't be allowed to smoke outdoors in the park, is another example. They think because they are so much smarter than everyone else, they will treat the world to their pearls of wisdom. For this priveleged woman, Sheryl Sandberg, to think women should be listening to her on how to live their lives, it does nothing but expose her for the narcisist she is. I guess she wants to be the next Leona Helmsley.

March 13 2013 at 6:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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