FEMINISM AUGUST 12, 2013
Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive, has been hailed as one of the feminist heroes of this decade. Her message, telegraphed most loudly in this year's "Lean In," has been criticized for being gussied-up corporate self-help, but it also has been earnestly memorized by young female go-getters across the country. And, it appears, middle-aged, powerful wealthy men, too.
In a New York Times story on Larry Summers' recent, highly enthusiastic accumulation of private sector wealth, Stanford economist Jeremy Bulow explained his pal's decision to follow the money instead of thinking about how that might look on financial disclsosure forms with this:
Asked why Mr. Summers would not have simply opted out of financial work, given the questions it could raise if he were nominated to lead the Federal Reserve, Mr. Bulow, the Stanford economist, said he thought Mr. Summers’s early experience with cancer (at the age of 28, he was treated for Hodgkin’s disease) had been formative. It shaped him to make decisions based on present options, Mr. Bulow said, rather than worrying about future unknowns, like whether President Obama would choose him for the Fed.
“He doesn’t proceed that way,” Mr. Bulow said. “I think basically, you know, it’s a little bit like Sheryl Sandberg says, ‘Don’t leave before you’re leaving.’ ”
In the viral TED Talk where she said that, Sandberg was offering that advice, technically speaking, to women who are considering what having a baby might do to their attempts to climb the corporate ladder. Technically! But the complications associated with that particular biological quandary are basically just like the complications that arise when you're considering whether to give up paycheck-stacking at hedge funds and tech startups in order to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Sandberg's talk was entitled "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders," and is a nice snapshot of Sandberg's brand of feminism, which more or less says that women are often shooting themselves in the foot at work. It largely does not acknowledge there are deeply entrenched systemic problems that might be holding them back, or clubby, powerful groups that are largely impenetrable for most women, even the superhumanly accomplished ones, like Janet Yellen. Sandberg, who emphasizes the importance of mentorship in her book, happened to be a protege of Summers's at an important point early on in her career. And now, Sandberg's broken through the ultimate glass ceiling: she's the official feminist of the boys' club. Her advice is so good, they don't even see it as being for women.
Noreen Malone is a staff writer at the New Republic. Follow her on Twitter.