Sheryl Sandberg & Taylor Swift: The NEW Dynamic Duo

By Lisa Barr

You cannot walk past a magazine rack without seeing both of these faces: Facebook’s COO star Sheryl Sandberg (credited for launching Facebook into the Billion-sphere), and Pop Star sensation Taylor Swift. Both of these women are sparking up the national conversation.

Two women. Two Generations. Two (very different) stories. ONE message: Power is not a given … it’s a Choice.

It’s all about the “climb” as Miley would say, but don’t overlook Le Destination — Sandberg might add.

Sandberg, 43, advises women to stop holding back and Lean-IN as a Working Woman/Mom through hard work, education, and making good choices for both you and your family. It’s about wrestling with self-doubt (and winning the match), negotiating for yourself, and being able to hurdle internal boundaries to ask for and GET what you deserve.

Sandberg’s just-released book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, has everyone on both sides of the Feminist coin talking … and talking.

Sandberg knows what every Mom knows if she wants to remain on top of her game: Organization, Prioritization, Simplification. In a nutshell: Get. It. Done. AND while you’re at it — do it with a SMILE.

Sandberg is clear: If you are a Working Mom who has the talent, the skill, the savvy, the drive, and who has paid her dues — there is no reason to fall off the Corporate Cliff, or get cut on the glass ceiling, once you add a child into the mix. She emphasizes not to feel the Guilt Trap that society has laid out for you from the get-go:  What are YOU thinking: You can’t be a top executive AND CEO of your family. Something’s got to give.

But the Facebook Exec is clear: The sacrifice does not have to be YOU.

Sandberg is the first to admit she has advantages: a Mom with 2 young children, wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams (on her own merit, thank you), with plenty of help and familial support to ensure that her life works (unlike thousands of working Moms who make it by the seat of their pants – living paycheck-to-paycheck and always scrambling). She is also in a loving relationship with a man (a CEO of a company), who by all media accounts, believes his wife should be all that she wants to be. Sandberg’s critics have said that she is not in touch with the challenges of the “real” working woman, and have called her “privileged” (and herein lies the problem — would anyone categorize a man who busted his ass to get to the top of the Corporate Ladder as “privileged”?).

The gist of Sandberg’s message: We have blamed men, societal mores, for holding us back  — and in many cases, they have — but if we look deeper, we women must also blame ourselves for being “stuck” — but it doesn’t have to stay that way …  She gives play-by-play strategies on how to change your position.

Sheryl — your book should be a Working Woman’s Bible. And yet there’s a critical piece to this problem that Lean-In must fully address OUT LOUD — and probably the Dirty Little Secret of Women in the Workplace that I, and thousands of others, have experienced first-hand:

It is WOMEN in the workplace who hold other women back — NOT Men.

I know this statement sounds blasphemous coming from an editor of a Mom blog, whose goal is to unite women against the forces that keep us down. But having been both a Full-Time-Working-Single-Mom and a Stay-At-Homer, the sad truth is that women can be brutal, and make our lives/jobs/advancement in any organization (PTO included) a difficult and sometimes truly painful experience.

A little background: I have worked in public relations, newspapers, magazines, and I was hired to launch a women’s section for a major newspaper. All of these jobs were predominantly working for and with women. While there are indeed too many cases of chauvinism and harassment Out There from male bosses — in my 25 years of experience in the working world — it doesn’t compare to the vast amount of backstabbing and manipulations that takes place among women in the workplace.

One personal example … At a particular publication, my boss was a very tough editor. I was then a single mom with two young girls, and I had never missed a deadline. This woman would “clock me” with a stop watch (announcing aloud to the whole staff when I was one minute late — arriving at 9:01)), she did not allow me to attend my young daughter’s birthday party at school (when I was willing to make up the lost hour AND at the time, my kids did not have a father), she berrated me for leaving the paper at 5:30 pm (I never took lunch) to get home to my young children (when I offered to work at night without extra pay — she said No Way), and she organized a posse of women to follow her lead and chastise me at every opportunity. I had to take all the crap that she threw my way because I needed the money. I had no choice but to smile, do my job, hold my head up high, and hope for the best.  It got to a point that her superior — a male editor called her out in a meeting in front of everyone and said, “You are burying that woman (aka: me). You need to stop now.”

This is just one example, but I have heard hundreds of similar horror stories from other women. I believe THIS dark chapter of Women in the Workplace must be open, and fully addressed — if not for our generation then at least for our daughters’ sake.

That said, there were also those few amazing female mentors (I call them Saviors) who crossed my path, who nurtured me along, protected me, encouraged me, taught me, and were confident enough in their own talent that they happily propelled me to the next level based on my abilities and hard work. These women were golden, and treasured. These were the women I chose to model my work ethic after.

Enter Taylor Swift.

Once upon a time … a few mistakes ago … I was once your age. We all know the score. Swift , 23, is beautiful, incredibly talented, and has had a revolving door of notable young men as lovers/boyfriends, among them: Taylor Lautner, Zac Efron, Jake  Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles, Conor Kennedy and John Mayer (is it just me … or am I the only woman alive who has NOT been with John Mayer?). Swift has had to grow up, make her mistakes, learn her love lessons under the scrutinizing, microscopic lens of an insatiable public. Her break-ups and make-ups are right there in black and white with my morning coffee.

But Taylor — I got a hand it to you, Young Girlfriend — you use your songwriting power to make those boys accountable. You write it, you sing it, you play it, you tell it like it is. Your honest lyrics relay your story, your lessons to an entire generation of girls — who can totally relate.

My three teenage daughters have probably learned more about “Beware of Bad Boy”–(his name is “Trouble”)– from your experiences than from anything I could teach them.

Now here’s what recently REALLY caught my attention  … Swift, who falls and rises by the strings of her heart (like so many of us, especially in our younger years), dug her cowboy boots into the dirt and took on a few women whom everyone loves, but truthfully were revealing their “Mean Girls” side.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, emceed this year’s Golden Globes. They told a joke warning Swift to stay away from Michael J. Fox’s handsome son, and that Swift should basically cut down on the man-eating and go indulge in some long overdue “Me Time.”

Swift did not take her-life-is-a-joke lightly; did not crawl into the Hole of Shame. No, she fought back  — she LEANED-IN and told those women off publicly:

“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Bravo! I have said this for years …  Taylor, you just said it better and louder — and the best part is our young generation heard you.  I only hope your NEXT BIG HIT is not about Love Lost but about the pitfalls of Women Dissing Women.

GIRLilla Warfare was built on the foundation that combines the best of Sandberg and Swift with a few extras: be a good friend, be the girl who tells another girl which dress really looks better, be the Nice Mom who sees the New Mom standing alone and invites her into the “circle”, be the Employer who recognizes the good in her young office newbie and encourages her upward mobility, be the Middle School girl who invites the girl sitting alone at lunch to eat with her clique.

Be the girl, the young woman, the Mom who you would want your own daughter to be. Be the employer that you would want your own daughter to have.

True Power — how you use it/how you obtain it/how you climb — is YOUR choice.  But as you rise — help don’t hurt other women on your journey.


< back

9 Comments. Would you like to comment?

Leave a Reply