This is a big effing deal

The swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th president is a huge deal. We can return to more normalcy in governance as he tries to unite us. But, let me set that aside and say the inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice-president is a big effing deal.

Seeing a woman sworn in as vice president is a long time over due for a country that touts democracy. Other democracies have preceded us with a woman being president, prime minister or chancellor. Angela Merkel, Jacinda Arden, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May all come to mind.

Harris is not just breaking the ceiling as a woman, which is a big effing deal by itself. She is the first African-American, the first Asian-American, and part of the first multiracial couple and family to occupy the home of the vice-president. She is uniquely American, as representative of our melting pot as one can get.

But, as a man, let me attempt to address this walk-in-the-shoes moment and what it means. My wife wore pearl earrings to honor Harris’ alma mater as she watched. And, she was crying after Harris was sworn in. A man does not realize how a woman feels to be treated in an overbearing way. Or, to be condescended to. Or to be belittled. Or, to be sexually harassed or even assaulted.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote the excellent book “Lean in,” which tells women to lean into opportunity or push back. It was and is a great title in that men are very skilled at leaning in. There is a line, I think from this book, that says a man with lesser skill sets will often feel more qualified for a job than a woman with more skill sets.

Then, we must layer into Harris’ make-up the fact she is a multiracial woman of color. In an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, she noted she has been told “no” at every step of the ladder. Then, she smiled and said “I eat ‘no’ for breakfast.” That embodies Sandberg’s theme. Just think of all of the young women and young women of color she will influence going forward. Be a leader, be a scientist, be an engineer, be a doctor….don’t accept no as a reason you cannot.

This is a big effing deal. I wish her, Joe Biden and their families and staffs the greatest of success. We need them to succeed in uniting us.

Leaning in – a few additional thoughts

My friend Emily January, who blogs at The Bookshelf of Emily J, recently reviewed the book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. Emily does her normal wonderful job of summarizing her thoughts on the book and offering her opinion. Since she attracts a great audience, she elicits a number of thoughtful comments. Rather than repeat her write-up, I encourage you to check it out by hitting the enclosed link at the end of this post.

I shared with Emily I would read the book and share my thoughts. Emily and others have felt the book is a great conversation starter, but were looking for something more in-depth. They also felt the book is geared toward women who have choices and not necessarily for those who cannot afford to lean in at their jobs or they will be fired. I had heard the latter concerns as well. Hear are my few thoughts.

I agree the book is not in-depth, but I do find it of value in pushing women (and men) to advocate for themselves. I like Sandberg’s using examples where she encourages women to sit at the table when they gravitated toward the side chairs in a conference room. I like that she seeks her partner out to do more, as raising a family and working in a stressful, travel filled job is hard. I like that she speaks of career progression as more of a jungle gym of moves rather than a ladder upward. I like that she acknowledges that it is OK to move after giving a job a fair chance and benefitting from the experience.

And, I like her noting that you have to disconnect from work, otherwise you will burn out and be less effective. The quote from Colin Powell on this is priceless where he notes there are times when the job can be very time consuming, but there are times when it is not. When it is not, use that time to go be with your family. Don’t feel like you have to be present at work after hours when it is not needed.

However, I do agree that book is written more for women (and men) who have choices and a better education. Also, for people with jobs that can be done from home on occasion, it is a better guidebook. For those women who work tirelessly in jobs they are not fond of, or in jobs where you could be fired if you don’t show up or are routinely late, it is less applicable. I do think there are takeaways for those women and men, but these folks need to be more mindful of when they choose to lean-in.

I think it is a good read for women and men. It will definitely start the conversation. Now, link up with Emily’s post and offer comments. I would appreciate any thoughts here as well.

http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/05/07/women-at-work-leaning-in/