THE BLOG

In Defense of Sheryl Sandberg: Lean In, Ban Bossy, and Whatever Else She Comes Up With

03/18/2014 06:23 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2014
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Listen up, people. Sheryl Sandberg has started a global conversation that everyone is talking about. Whether you agree with her views or not, she has started one of the most important conversations women will have in our generation: equal pay for equal work and more women in the highest executive positions in the private and public sector.

Let's back up. I don't know Sheryl very well. I did work at Google and have met Sheryl a number of times, and she was always warm and friendly, but am I friends with her? No. I do not belong to a Lean In Circle, although I think they are cool. I did read her book and I thought the main messages were very powerful. What resonated with me about Lean In was that I was a woman working in the corporate world who thought twice about negotiating my salary because I was worried about how others would perceive me. I was a woman who was afraid to take the promotion or a bigger role because I was worried I would not have enough time with my kids. I was a woman who was always -- and I mean always -- feeling guilt about being a working mom. Whether you are a billionaire like Sheryl or not, all working moms feel guilt. It's just the way nature intended it to be.

Regarding Ban Bossy... I love this campaign, I really do. Why, you ask? Because on the playground in first grade at the John F. Kennedy School in Canton, MA, I was called "bossy" on a daily basis. I was the natural leader of my first grade class and I organized recess activities like Red Rover and other amazing games that both boys and girls could enjoy. I carefully divided up the teams so that an equal number of strong boys and girls were on each team so it was a fair fight. Red Rover can get hard core, y'all.

Anyway, my leadership style, although it was inclusive, was to stick to and believe in my decisions and never waiver. All of the kids followed my lead and had a great time playing Red Rover, but at the end of the game, the boys would inevitably call me "bossy," probably because they felt emasculated. Girls weren't supposed to be in charge back then. The word "bossy" cut pretty deep, but I was a rare breed of 7-year-old who was totally sure of herself and loved herself the minute she came out of the womb back in 1974 (thanks, Mom and Dad, for the high self-esteem!) so I ignored them, but that hateful word always stayed with me.

As I got older and entered the corporate workforce, there were a few occasions where my male bosses would note that my tone could be perceived as "too direct or bossy" and if I wanted to get ahead I needed to "tone it down." While I appreciated the direct feedback and to be fair, my lady baritone voice can come off as harsh sometimes, I knew that if I were a man, I would never -- and I mean never -- have received the same feedback. I moved through my career never wanting to be perceived as "bossy" and it actually became a goal of mine, which is pretty f'ed up if you think about it. I was training myself to tone down my leadership. The fact is that women are regarded more favorably in the workplace if they defer to others, if they are collaborative and soft. Women who are direct and strong are not valued as much as humble and demure women. This is what Ban Bossy is all about and I applaud Sheryl for starting another meaningful and important conversation for both men and women.

#BanBossy