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Tiziana Dearing Headshot

Enough About 'Leaning In'

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Enough about leaning in already. If women in the U.S. lean any further into debating Sheryl Sandberg's book of the same name, we're going to suffer from a gender-wide case of vertigo. The whole debate drives me a little nutty, and I have been trying to figure out why.

Best as I can tell, the answer is one part, "It's none of your business," one part, "Who died and made the top of the ladder God?" and one part, "Look, there goes the point."

On the "none of your business" front, let's keep people as far away from our kitchen table decisions as we women have been fighting to keep them from our bodies and our bedrooms. Each person's life is specific, complex and, most importantly, personal. Much of this debate has been colored with a pretty judgmental brush. Women and men make vocational and avocational decisions for a whole range of personal reasons. No judgment, pity or well-intentioned but slightly superior advice required.

And who did die and make the top of the ladder God? How about women refuse to buy into the cult of the C-Suite? There is a huge difference between being a great leader and being in charge, as anyone who has ever had or been a lousy boss can tell you. Plus, I secretly suspect the desire to be the alpha has as much to do with millennia-old, species-level instincts towards preservation of the genetic line as with a host of modern-day factors. As such, we should measure the value we place on being top of the hierarchy against competing instincts with a little care. If you want to be an alpha female, fine. If not, also fine. It does not make you less, even if the alphas you work for don't see it that way.

Finally, it feels like the real point has been hovering a good thousand feet above the conversation. I believed the goal of the women's movement was to achieve true self-determination -- a society in which a woman can be whatever she wants to be.

For years, I wanted to be a happy mom, a good wife, in charge and 20 pounds thinner. While I achieved the first three, it was ridiculously hard to achieve them all at once -- a feat I did not manage on a regular basis. (Number four fell off the list for several years with an audible splat.) The point is not which part of my list I achieved, though, but that I felt both free and empowered to make my own list and go for it. And not for nothing, but it's number one and two that have made me a better person, even if being a CEO made me sharper. (I'll let you know about number four if it ever hefts itself successfully to the top of my list.)

So, I'd like to call an olly olly oxen free on the leaning in debate, unless it's one women's debate for herself in her own mind and within her own family. We've said enough on the subject, and not all of it helpful.