I am in the middle of writing a book for women in business. I share the good, the exciting, and the sometimes horrible, so these can be lessons as we make our climb up the ladder. I came up for air from my writing to find two prominent women have released books this year.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomajor’s book, “My Beloved World,” recounts her life as a young Puerto Rican girl growing up in the Bronx. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has written a book/manefesto for women in the workplace called “Lean In.” She argues women need to raise their hands more at work, and not drop out when we’re starting families. We also need to have our husbands carry their share of the load at home with children and chores.

I’ve had the pleasure of wading through Justice Sotamajor’s book. She surprisingly opens herself up to the reader. She shares what growing up as a poor, ethnic little girl meant for her. I could relate to her special love of her grandmother, her feeling of being out of place amongst the blond and beautiful set, and her tough resilience as she made her way. I found myself cheering for her throughout the book. You go girl! And she surely went, all the way to the US Supreme Court.

I haven’t read Ms. Sandberg’s book yet since it’s not officially released, but the NYT and WSJ have posted early reviews. In both of these, it seems the problem is not the content, but her lack of relatability. NYT: “Will more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and child care, embrace the advice of a Silicon Valley executive whose book acknowledgements include thanks to her wealth adviser and Oprah Winfrey?” (2/22/2013)

I know for fact that Ms. Sandberg has done a lot for women. She has mentored them, and she has gotten them on business boards. She seems to be this fascinating person who has dodged the life most women live. I don’t intend this as a ‘poor pitiful us’ comment, but the fact is we spend much of our lives being told we can not do—play quarterback, rabble rouse, run companies—so many of us greet adulthood a bit hesitant about raising our hands. Then we work, nurture families, do the schlepping, and, as the Carly Simon song says, fix the toaster too! I’m guessing Ms. Sandberg hasn’t fixed any toasters as she’s blazed her trail. Because we have amazing grit and welcome all sorts of new learning, we make our way just fine, and live our lives well.

The content of my book has personal stories, and counsel for women. In this way it’s a hybrid of the two mentioned above. I share tales of trying to balance being a mom with work, which was never easy. Some tough things happened on the job. At one company I watched a work colleague surrender to his alcoholism, with his final act being to kill his wife and them himself. All of the things I will recount helped me to mature, and gave me better tools in managing people. Ultimately, I made my way to the corner office at HGTV. The guidance I will offer strikes me as real and relatable, given the dimensions of our lives. I can only hope that is so. The reader will be the final judge.
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4 Comments

  1. Pattie Simone

    Wise words and insight Susan … can’t wait to read your book – and the stories of real working women, juggling motherhood, overcoming failures, etc. As a woman in tech, I’ve been told to aim high and scale back. I’ve struggled with a lack of funding and been uplifted by unsolicited accolades and words of support from total strangers. I’ve watched less competent colleagues thrive, seen countless talented women struggle to get their due and wondered if I’d ever fully “arrive”. The grit and determination factors you mentioned + ambition and our respective inner networks of supporters are of what keep us “regular” gals going. That said, I think there’s value in recognizing each one of us has our own challenges, setbacks and fears to deal with. Even if our journeys do not take us as far as Sheryl’s or Sonia’s – each of us, whether we are stay at home moms, recent grads, in-transition or fledgling entrepreneurs – should find whats right for their family and situation. At the core of it, I think the goal is to be at peace with the expected ebb and flow of our work and home lives. And whether we choose to “lean in” or not after starting our families, expecting more from the men in our lives is a given!

    Reply
    • Susan Packard

      Hi Pattie, sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to you. Book has me underground for now 🙂

      As a woman in tech, you face special challenges. Given our numbers, there are even fewer women than in general business. Wish you the best, and you’ve got it right: it’s all about finding peace with the ebb and flow of life. Best wishes!

      Susan

      Reply
      • Judith Guido

        Susan-
        Your words resonate with me. Having a vision,the ability to focus, internal drive and a supportive, intelligent and objective group of women are key ingredients for success!

        Reply

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