Helaine Olen reports on an incident from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In:
Late in the book, she tells the tale of a male CEO she knows, “enormously dedicated to hiring and promoting women,” she assures her reader. One day a woman came to him, demanding a promotion, immediately claiming the company “undervalued” her because she was female. The CEO, Sandberg tells us, “had no choice but to put their friendly talks on hold and call in HR. It might have served her better to explain how she was contributing to the company and ask for the promotion first.”
Surely, Sandberg’s advice is correct. Anyone who wants a promotion or a raise should begin by explaining how much she or he has contributed to the company. If your work can't speak for you, you should shut up.
And yet, the woman in question was actually leaning in. She was asserting herself, speaking truth to power, confronting her boss, declaring herself a feminist and demanding her due.
Sandberg understands corporate etiquette and she understands how to be conciliatory. And yet, her master concept-- leaning in-- does not embody this knowledge. It says something else. The woman who confronted her boss and got in his face over her promotion was leaning in. She was following the concept. She has not misunderstood it. She understood it only too well.
The moral of the story is that if your catchy concept reasonably implies something that you do not want it to imply, you should change it.
One recalls that Sandberg friend Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, walked into her boss’s office and declared that she was being underpaid in comparison to her male predecessor. She was fired on the spot. Evidently, she did not know that she had lost the newsroom and that her boss was looking for an excuse to fire her. But, it might also be the case that the same confrontational attitude that got her fired caused her to lose the newsroom.
Similarly, another Sandberg friend, Megyn Kelly, just botched her contract negotiations with Fox News by going public with a series of complaints that made her seem to be more important than the network. (After the network had made her a star, incidentally.) Kelly was disloyal. She was anything but conciliatory. She alienated everyone at Fox News and ended up taking a lesser offer from NBC and accepting a daytime show, show that will most likely not be most suited to her considerable talents.
Anyway, Sandberg herself erred in choosing the wrong concept to promote a conciliatory attitude. Now, if women have damaged their careers by following it to the letter, Helaine Olen wants women to damage their careers even more. Arrogantly, she is offering Sandberg advice on how to function as a corporate officer. True enough, Olen is a financial journalist, but she has not idea about how to run a company and does not even respect Sandberg, one of the most successful corporate officers in the business world.
It shows what happens to even the most successful women when they run afoul of the feminist ideologues.
Olen is upset that Sandberg has not joined the Resistance. She is outraged that Sandberg might be showing women how to do their jobs in the Age of Trump. She believes that the nation has been invaded by the armies of the Third Reich. She sees the nation having established a collaborationist government at Vichy. She believes that it is better to resist than to collaborate.
She is obviously fighting a past war. And she is certainly not dealing with the real world.
Olen’s views are common on the alt-left. She sounds unhinged and emotionally overwrought, to the point where, armed with her ideological zealotry, she takes out after a very successful woman executive and tells her that she should not work for the shareholders of Facebook but that she owes her primary loyalty to Feminism, Inc.
A woman who follows Olen’s advice will have a short, unhappy career. No one can advance in the business world by showing more loyalty to an ideology than to his or company. Since more women than men are likely to take the appeal from Feminism, Inc. seriously, Olen’s advice will hamper their success.
What has gotten Olen so torqued? First, Sandberg attended a meeting with president-elect Trump.
A segment of the feminist community has been more than a bit dismayed by Sandberg’s relationship with the man now occupying the White House. First, she, along with other tech executives, met with Trump back in December.
Does anyone honestly think that she should have risked damaging her business by making a political statement? All of the oligarchs of tech were there. If Sandberg to had boycotted the meeting it might have damaged her and perhaps even her company.
And then, Sandberg did not attend the Women’s March. She passed on the opportunity to stand on the stage with a foul-mouthed Madonna, a dimwitted Ashley Judd and a Shariah-law defending Linda Sarsour. (About the latter, see Daniel Pipes.)
Olen attacks Sandberg:
She skipped the historic women’s march and didn’t initially say a word about it, not even a Facebook post. Grumbling finally broke out into the open about a week ago, courtesy of Sarah Lacy at Pando. “I understand that Sandberg is in a brutal position, but that is the thing about standing up for what’s right. It only means anything when it’s inconvenient,” Lacey wrote.
Considering what the celebrities said in Washington, one understands Sandberg’s position. Olen has no idea of what it means to be a corporate officer. Therefore she gives the kind of advice that will prevent women from becoming corporate officers.
When asked to defend herself Sandberg offered the correctly conciliatory posture:
Under questioning Wednesday by Recode’s Kara Swisher at the Watermark Women’s Conference, Sandberg attempted to explain her position. When Swisher asked about that December meeting, Sandberg replied it was important to keep the lines of communication open. “The administration is going to have a broad ability to take action on things we care about,” Sandberg said. “So the dialogue here is important.”
“I think it’s early – I can’t sit on this stage and predict (and predict) what will happen,” Sandberg said at another point. “I have to remain hopeful,” she repeated more than once, much the way a self-help guru might chant an improving mantra. As for that women’s march? A “personal obligation” conflicted. Then she “didn’t feel comfortable” posting about it.
Of course, this did not placate the feminist furies. Olen goes into highest dudgeon over the Trump administration. Being an empty-headed ideologue she believes that she has a superior understanding of executive leadership and of the interrelation between business and government. Right or wrong, she does not understand that a corporate executive’s job is to deal with such leaders, not to man the barricades and to set fires.
She attacks Sandberg:
Let’s get real. What sign, perchance, is Sandberg waiting for? In the less than two weeks since Trump took the oath of office, he has signedan executive order all but banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, claiming he’s concerned about terrorism but excluding sometime terrorist exporter Saudi Arabia, where the Trump Organization has business interests. Trump signed another executive order stopping government funding of groups that offer or even discuss abortion in other countries. Trump’s threatened to send troops to Mexico. He plans to sign an executive order Friday afternoon that will almost certainly result in a significant rolling back of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. And he’s lied so many times, it’s all but impossible to keep track of the whoppers.
When you are an ideologue, you know it all. You are in touch with a higher truth. Considerations of subtlety and corporate responsibility pale when placed next to your own unshakeable convictions.
And Olen believes that the first two weeks of the Trump presidency have told her everything that she needs to know about Trump:
Still, Sandberg’s model in Lean In is not the one this resistance moment needs. Trump is not a man whom an underling could have a productive “dialogue” with. If reasoned conversation worked with him, surely we would know it by now. Instead, in Trump’s world, it’s bully or be bullied.
To Olen’s simple mind, everything gets reduced to a pat alt-left formula. Any woman, no matter how successful she is, must be attacked mercilessly if she does not sign on to the Resistance and the Revolution.
She continues her rant:
Lean In was never about challenging the system. It was an updated manual for cooperating with authority so you could make a run at the corner office. In retrospect, the American embrace of it might demonstrate how all too many of us have bought into the language of the self-help movement, not to mention the myth of the heroic businessman (and woman) that’s so pervasive it just got an unqualified man elected president.
Do you want women to succeed in business, or not? Olen does not. Any woman who adopts her attitude had best look for career opportunities outside of the business world. Anyone who knows anything knows that a conciliatory attitude in business has nothing to do with the self-help movement. Yet again, Olen proudly displays her ignorance.
And, need I add, as a footnote, that Trump’s predecessor was in no way qualified to be president of the United States. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not thinking.
Lately, Sandberg has joined other tech titans protesting the administration’s ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries.
Still, it is not enough for Olen. She thinks that Sandberg is yet another corporate suck-up, a woman who believes in getting along with other people. And yet, does Olen think that corporate executives manage people by being feminist culture warriors and taking the fight to the patriarchy?
She’s the same people-pleaser who believes the best progress is made not by being angry and demanding but by being measured and likeable. There’s a time and a place for that, but in our current moment, it’s not the recipe for progress.
Defaming a successful woman executive is not the path to progress. How does it happen that an arrogant and self-involved ideologue convinces herself that she knows best how to function in the worlds of business and politics? The pretense is pathetic.