The Missing Link to Innovation and Inclusion

Lean In to the Debate

Sheryl Sandberg

People are taking issue with Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged position as she encourages women to Lean In . That’s not what bothers me though, and in some ways is a red herring…a means to divide women, yet again (rich vs poor as we’ve long done with stay-at-home vs working).

What bothers me is that what’s coming out of Lean In is not really new advice, and the issue is still centered smack dab in our laps. Guidance about leadership style, confidence, and managing time gets old. Sure, then what?  We’ve been there and done that; it’s not working for women or corporations which want to be more inclusive and innovative. The issue of women in leadership and work family balance begins and ends with children. This is the frontier we must redefine together.

The privilege of an army of people to care for home and children certainly makes working logistically easier, but it can also disconnect parents (M or F) from the daily lives of their children, which is tough on everyone and affects the culture of corporations too.

We must put children at the center and solve for a new paradigm, F and M together, for how to engage in raising children while including ALL of our talent in work and leadership.  It has never been easier to solve for this ideal, which many of us achieve by working independently, leveraging technology and networks.  Organizations could choose to do the same.  Our children need this, but so do our organizations.  Imagine the leaders we would grow if they could lean into their humanity as they rise!  Organizational empathy and innovation would be the prize.

What’s most encouraging in this age of social media is that the right debate may finally happen at the virtual water cooler, and to that, we should all Lean In.

Photo:  Stephane Mahe/Reuters

4 Responses to “Lean In to the Debate”

  1. Sam B

    First and foremost, I appreciate that Sheryl Sandberg is using her considerable media muscle to draw attention to the issue of women in leadership. Especially since the last news cycle featured Ann Marie Slaughter’s less-than-helpful conclusion that it is impossible to be both a decent parent and seriously successful leader. But you are right, no one wants to address the harder issue: who the heck is taking care of the kids while all this leaning-in is going on? Details, details… As you point out, the structure of childcare needs to evolve if we intend to substantially increase workforce productivity.

  2. jackieacho

    Very well said, Sam! The structure of how we work as well as how we care for children can and should change to be more mutually reinforcing, for women and men. There are beacons out there who show us the way. They’re seriously successful, leading the most innovative organizations, and they’re not all women (e.g., @richardbranson). Thanks so much for commenting. You have a lot to offer in this debate.

  3. Lori Wald Compton

    There’s a struggle I don’t see mentioned anywhere and I wonder if you do. It’s the issue of paying the nanny. Not many women net much of anything at all after the nanny’s wages. And that is the way the equation is done: Mom’s salary – Nanny’s wages = Net Gain. I never hear the equation set forth this way: (Mom’s Salary + Dad’s Salary) – Nanny’s Wages = Net Gain.
    Oh- look at that, I used my algebra!
    Economics drives so many of our decisions. Do you see much discussion about this?

    • jackieacho

      GREAT point. I don’t see much on this either but I hear it PLENTY in private conversations. If we reframe the goals of early childhood to raise kids and keep talent in the game, nanny economics make sense and different working models emerge. Thanks for weighing in, Lori!


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