Lean In, or Butt Out
One of the promising things I saw about women getting more involved in the top leadership echelons of business is that they would bring something new and better: greater caution about risky behavior, more relational sensitivity — that they would bring something distinct to the table, genuine diversity. The research indicates that they tend to do this. But what happens when the loudest voices in the field of leadership development among women are advocates of greater ambition, aggression, of ‘leaning in’ because ‘nice girls don’t get the corner office’? What happens is that you get women who think the way to be leaders is to act like men. You get Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook overseeing the use of mass experimentation on us in order to gain information to drive hyper revenue-growth and with ne’er a thought for the ethics of the whole thing and a process devoid of empathy. Avoiding stuff like this is exactly why I want more women in leadership positions.
“Thousands of Facebook Inc. FB +1.43% users received an unsettling message two years ago: They were being locked out of the social network because Facebook believed they were robots or using fake names. To get back in, the users had to prove they were real.
“In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook’s antifraud measures. In the end, no users lost access permanently. “
Women in leadership positions in business is surely no longer a matter of controversy, on this side of the Burka Curtain. But the recent heavy push by bossy people to ban the word “bossy” — and the relentless promotion of the idea that we need to poke and prod women to “lean in” — takes the sensible idea that no human institution works properly without both men and women, and creates a different distortion, one in which women are told that the only way they can succeed in business is to become less like women.