Forget Lean In. How about women try Leaning On…Each Other?

By | April 25, 2013

I am the product of an all-girls private school that did all of the things that studies show women’s schools do. It was cool for girls to be smart.  Women are leaders.  We could (and should) have a voice.   And like many women of my generation, I always wanted it all…and learned the hard way that having it all meant having to do it all in all of the ways that the studies about working women and the third shift have already documented to death.  (And that any working mom of my generation can tell you about firsthand.)

So I am fascinated by what feels like a throw-back conversation about the glass ceiling, the frenzied discussion around Leaning In (For women, at work.  For men, at home. )  and the truly polarizing debates about Marissa Mayer and those who “feel sorry for her baby”, criticizing her for taking only two weeks of maternity leave and “abandoning her baby” then criticizing her for bringing her baby to work.  All we need is a bra burning (Did I miss the email about that?).

Sure, some see this as opening up a conversation about choices, tolerance and a sisterhood of support.  But mostly, women are turning on each other in droves around these topics, such as the much shared, snarky piece by Maureen Dowd, who seemingly doesn’t buy the whole Lean In thing. (Admittedly, I found this funny, but I am a fan of snark.)  Forget the battle of the sexes; we haven’t seen a battle of the women like this since Melanie Griffith’s Working Girl character opined, “If you want to be taken seriously, you need serious hair.”  (A rule to live by, by the way!)

This is no different than the eternal battle between career women (aka Tiger Women) and stay at home mom’s (aka SAHMs) – both of whom feel defensive and make false assumptions about the other. Among the most notable – the falsehood that career women are selfish, materialistic people who put shoes ahead of their offspring, get to go to the gym at lunch every day and have more money than they know what to do with; while SAHMs are an intellectually inferior species who are wasting their education, watching daytime TV and baking bread from scratch because they have more free time than they know what to do with.  Neither is true.  And perhaps, we should support and respect each other rather than fight with each other.

Because this infighting is exactly what those who wish to keep women “in their place” are counting on.  The debate isn’t a throwback.  The glass ceiling is real, as this infographic  shows. Women are still only holding slightly more than 10 percent of board seats in the Fortune 500 and most of the companies who do have women on the board have only one.  Some might call that “a token.”    As many as one third of MBA students are women, yet only 3 percent of C-level executives are women.   Male owned start-ups receive 95 percent of the VC money.

We are our own worst enemy.  Let’s stop perpetuating the stereotyping of female infighting.  Whether you choose to Lean In, or lean out, maybe women need to try Leaning ON each other for a change.

Let’s start a #LEANON movement…share your secrets and tips with fellow women.  Here’s my working Mom survival tip No. 1:

Keep a stack of singles in a kitchen drawer.  This way when you school-aged child needs exactly $3 on the way out to school, you won’t be writing a $3 check.  This also counts as homework help, because you are teaching your precious angel to count money.

#LEANON, baby.  #LEANON.

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