Dear Sheryl Sandberg,
About LEAN IN…
I was so excited when I heard your book would be released months ago. Oh, Sheryl — may I call you Sheryl? I think Ms. Sandberg is way too formal since we’re talking so freely. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. As a sideline fan of yours — because like me, you’re part of this wonderful club we belong to called, “Generation X”, and because of course, you’re female and one of my Chicks Who Are Helping Make Things Happen (not just for yourself, but for others) — I was eager to hear what this whole “lean in” was all about. Lean In…hmmm…Less fat?
It took me months to get through LEAN IN — I’m not kidding. And furthermore, it made me feel WORSE than I’ve already been feeling for years, and most especially, for the past six months!
I don’t know how this happened. O_O
Maybe I missed something. *shuffles through my memory bank*
Here’s what I did…
Nook in hand, Sheryl, I searched for LEAN IN and wha-lah! There it was! Click, click, purchase — Download! *whistles a happy tune* Once, I saw the cover, your face on it smiling back — BOOM — I began reading it immediately. But, whoa. With each page turn (and remember, it’s on my Nook so it’s an “e-turn”, LEAN IN quickly began to feel like idealism with a dash (or two, or three, or, heck, a dash to the 10th power) of Utopia. While the suggestions were well-intentioned, even I (or is it, “me”?) as a so-called “director” in a professional services environment, I thought it was a whole lot of fluff and it would be highly unlikely that real change will ever happen about how women are viewed and treated in the workplace.
To outsiders who see me, they probably think, “Oh, she’s got it going on!” Actually, I’ve been suffering through years of mismanagement, working at a company with no business strategy, no resources, and frankly, being subjected to disrespect and blame from middle-aged (and past-retirement) males with inflated egos the size of their wallets and their wives’ closets who feel they aren’t “getting more clients”, “more business” and I am the reason for ALL their problems. Yes, the marketing chick is the cause of ALL that ails them because to admit they are inept at running a business would be too much. They’ll throw the Pint Sizer under the bus before they get their suits dirty.
Sheryl, I’m more than qualified to do my job, IF people would let me do my job AND give me the resources to make it happen. But, I look around and I know things will never change. I’m not middle-aged and male, and yes, race place a BIG role in this. It is as clear as day in the way I move through my life, that dishing and swishing the Race Card is not the way I roll. But, race CANNOT be denied in this instance. I do not look like them. So, no, Sheryl, I’m not sitting at any table, they don’t want me at their table (I’m a “director” by default, as far as I’m concerned and I am the ONLY person of color on the management level), and frankly, I’m not interested in sitting at THEIR table. I’m not leaning in. I’m leaning out. That quote by Alice Walker you mentioned on page 66, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any,” only holds true if the person had power to begin with. Sure, I guess I have the power as a grown woman to pack up my stuff and walk out, but I don’t have your bank account. Let’s not forget that money in your pocket gives you power — including the power to tell your boss or bosses to go @%*! themselves, pack up your stuff, call for a Fed Ex pick-up, walk out the door, hail a cab, and make your way to your favorite watering hole for an early Happy Hour without a care in the world.
Power? What power?
I know of others who are professionals — well-spoken, well-read, have a sense of humor, intelligent, hard-working, willing to put their lives on hold for years for the sake of their companies (which I don’t in any way advocate, but it is done, and done all the time by those in the big city of New York where I work — we work until we drop), love our chosen careers, but who are, unfortunately, maligned and disrespected — as women, as women of color and, as in this case, seen as a waste of money simply because of what we do. We are not taken seriously. What we do isn’t considered “worthy” in the eyes of “suits”. Those of us in marketing, for example, are seen as a Budget Suck. Never mind that many marketers I know are incredibly experienced in customer service, public relations, communications — including the ever important, crisis communications (always handy when you get yourself in trouble and it goes viral on social media on any of the major networks), finance, negotiations, team building, project management, diplomacy — AND have advanced degrees.
When you replayed the story of Cynthia Hogan, former chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was later asked by now Vice President, Joe Biden, to join his staff as chief legal counsel, and how her being “forthright led to an opportunity,” Ms. Hogan needs to consider herself lucky. That scenario ain’t real, Sheryl. Sure, it’s a real story, but for me, for those who I know, being “forthright” has gotten us in a lot of trouble. Take me, for example. I’m in the midst of an ugly situation at my place of employment just for asking for sh*t. Will you hire me, if they decide to terminate me? I don’t think so. Speaking up for yourself. Asking questions. Making any challenges of any sort, gets you in the dog house and closer to sitting on your couch with no place to go on Monday morning. Things are more that just chilly and uncomfortable, more like downright freezing and threatening. Yes, I feel threatened — just by the behavior of those who control or influence those who control whether or not I get another paycheck. (And Sheryl, I need a job — not necessarily THIS job — but for now, this one pays the bills and I’ve got important things to worry about that depends on me having money.)
I’m going to leave you with this thought, Sheryl. I know you want the best for all girls and women. I do too, believe me. But, for the most part, I just cannot relate, and I tried, I really, really did. Which is the reason why I struggled to read your book. sigh.
- I’m female.
- I’m a woman of color.
- I’m an immigrant (I know what it’s like to start over from the bottom and people not hiding their hatred of immigrants and wanting them to “go back to your own country”).
- I’m small in stature (haven’t grown since my teens).
- I look way younger than I should, and consequently, I’m probably an “easy target” by those who feel they can treat me “any ol’ way” (big mistake).
If I’m assertive, I’m a b*%ch. If I make a challenge, I’m an Angry Black Woman, emotional and, surprise, surprise, I have a bad attitude. If make a suggestion, it is seen as me talking out of turn, not knowing my place (I’m serious), and well, I cannot possibly know anything because, you know, those of us from “the islands” are idiots and are only good for coconuts, sitting on a beach, breeding, running all kinds of illegal trades or just simply running in the Olympics, oh, and growing and selling weed. Yes, all of that. You may think I’m being “extra” with all this, but you would be wrong. If I could tell you all the things that have been said to me over the years. This is real life from where I sit.
You’re lucky, Sheryl (and probably many in your circle are too) — lucky and blessed with connections. And lucky for you too that you don’t look like me and not from my situation. I never walked in your shoes and you never walked in mine.
It is just so foreign to me.
Lean In? Thanks, but I don’t think so.
The Brainy Pint Sizer