Why continue to debate?

Both Yahoo’s telecommuting memo and Sandberg’s book have sent work-family experts and workplace bloggers into overdrive. Some have accused Yahoo of upending family-friendly flexible work policies that benefit working women in particular. And some women writers have already criticized Sandberg’s view as just one successful woman’s view of self-actualization: complain less; do more; get more face time with the boss; you are the master of your lives. Still others cheer that the public discussion about women, motherhood and careers, which seemed to stall for years, has not only found new life but has moved beyond the well-worn debate over whether mothers should even try to grab the corporate brass ring.

Yes we must continue to debate the complexity of the role of women — and men — in the workplace. Why? It’s simple and self-evident: society changes and lifestyles change, and so the demand for both men and women working changes. So this debate will carry on probably forever. 

Sandberg’s argument is that women need to be more aggressive and self promoting to be as successful as men in the business world. Hm, that is true to some extent. The problem with the business world is that it’s still dominated by young men, so an overly aggressive young woman may be counter-effective. I think that women should find a balance between femininity and masculinity, and that all depends on the personality of the woman herself. If it isn’t part of your nature to be aggressive, then find another way to assert your authority; that can be through your insight and the way that you listen to your subordinates. Authority is such an interesting word because it implies, in modern society, aggressiveness. But authority can also be more subtle, and the balance between the overt and subtle aggressiveness depends entirely on the person. For me, I’m outspoken around my friends, but I also realize that the things I believe may not go well in the workplace of some companies. So moderation is always the best. Learn how to speak eloquently without losing the attention of the audience or your authority over them. You control the thought process of your audience when you speak; use that wisely. 

I agree pretty much completely with the self-promoting aspect of her argument. Women tend to say “I’m sorry” even when we aren’t at fault. We also tend to blame ourselves if our group’s project isn’t a success, even when we aren’t entirely at fault. Perhaps a good way to start asserting your authority is through not saying “I’m sorry” over someone else’s fault (unless your their team leader or something along those lines… then I suppose “I’m sorry” would be more applicable). Or stop blaming ourselves for the smallest things, because that only serves to bring down our self-esteem and confidence, and thus our authority. 

Yahoo’s telecommuting memo is a little more murky. 

Many business leaders believe too much physical distance can harm teamwork and collective innovation. Mayer’s struggling company, for which she is the fifth chief executive in five years, issued a statement insisting that it isn’t trying to set the tone for the whole industry. Rather, “this is about what is right for Yahoo right now,” the statement said. 

Regardless, the announcement spawned a billboard in San Francisco from a video conferencing firm that reads, “Call us Marissa, we can help.” In a blog post, the company, Blue Jeans Network, wrote, “What’s right for Yahoo … is against almost every workforce trend.” British billionaire Richard Branson also attacked the Yahoo move, tweeting, “Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.”

Perhaps what’s right for Yahoo is a bit of bitter medicine before bringing out the sugar candy. Since I’m not an expert on Yahoo or the way the company is financially/structurally, I can’t make a good judgement about it. Mayer probably made this decision based on studies of her company with plenty of data, so it’s not like she made it randomly without any thought for the company or its workers. Yes it’ll be harder for women and men in the telecommuting portion of Yahoo, but perhaps this is what the company needs at the moment. Maybe when the company becomes successful again, the rules will change or become more lax. It’s possible. 

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About squishymaru

Master's student in chemical engineering with a B.S. in chemical engineering as well. Loves chemistry, math, increasing diversity in STEM, politics, and public health advocacy. Loves reading, writing, and being active -- mentally and physically.

2 thoughts on “Why continue to debate?

  1. rospendfror says:

    I’m impressed, I ought to say. Seriously rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough many people are speaking intelligently about. I am very pleased that I stumbled across this in my search for some thing relating to this.

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  2. squishymaru says:

    Aw, your comment made my day, quite honestly. Thank you! Sorry it took me a while to approve and reply to your comment: Engineering is on the verge of mentally killing me. I suppose my writing style leans more towards satire than anything else, but my parents taught me to be cynical from an early age. I’m pleased to know that you found this blog “educative and entertaining” as you put it. I just tend to hate not having intelligent conversations about current events. And not many of my friends know enough for me to have those conversations, if we actually had time to talk instead of studying for physics or micro or another core class. So this blog is really where I let out my desire for intelligent conversations. ^^ Haha, thank you again!

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