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When Women Push Back

November 19, 2016

 

I'm a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg and her book, Lean In. As I write here in my office, I glance over at the worn copy on my shelf, full of post-its, dog-eared pages and highlighter and pen-filled pages.

 

 

And I sit here, reflecting on a presidential election and what I personally perceive to be attacks on women, I think about the ramifications of leaning in.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focused on women pushing back and the perceptions that arise.

 

"Bossy."

 

"Aggressive."

 

"Pushy."

 

McKinsey & Co. recently release a survey on the impacts of pushing back on issues of salary, differential treatment, equal opportunities. And the result wasn't all that surprising. Women were penalized for being "too aggressive." And as we continue to hit glass ceilings, still at only 30% of senior management positions in roles in business, the challenges continue.

 

 

As a female leader in public education, I know too well the double standards. If you share your successes, you're bragging. But if you're male, you're marketing yourself. If you push on unconscious assumptions, you're too assertive. If you ask for feedback on your performance, what you receive will be much more critical than your male counterparts. And heaven forbid if you take risks and attempt opportunities that are stretch goals, or BHAG's in the Jim Collins world, and then you achieve. You threaten your very existence, particularly in a female-influenced work place. (Note - Big Hairy Audacious Goals are the norm in many businesses and non-profits out there).

 

As a female leader, I'm saddened by the results of the McKinsey & Co. survey. As the mother of eleven year old twin girls who will, at some point, embark on a journey into corporate America, I'm frustrated. In my own work with the Women's Leadership Network in the Association of California School Administrators, a group that was resurrected by many of us about eight or nine years ago (under the leadership of a male, mind you), I look at the inroads we've been able to make in public school leadership and try to quantify the time it will take to get to even half of the top roles being held by females in school leadership positions.

 

I worry about leadership. I worry about female leadership. Oh wait. Maybe I should take a page from Sandberg's notes....

 

 

 

Ouch. Just hit my head on the ceiling again.

 

It still hurts.

 

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