I recently had the opportunity to hear Sheryl Sandberg speak in London as she was promoting her latest book, a revised edition of ‘Lean In’ that is about business leadership and development, issues around the lack of women in government and business leadership positions, and feminism.
Sandberg holds a fairly substantial profile. As well as being COO of Facebook and the first ever woman to serve on Facebook’s board, she is an ex-executive of Google, and in 2012 was also listed in Time Magazine’s top 100 influential people in the world. Financially she is reported to be worth US$1bn. She is an acclaimed author, keynote speaker at TED, and has served on the Walt Disney Board. I think you will agree this is a really busy working life!
So what can work/life rhythms look like for her? As one of the worlds most successful businesswomen in one of the worlds most profitable companies, married to David Goldberg who is the CEO of Survey Monkey, AND they have two children, surely the idea of life balance can’t come into play?
Well actually, quite the contrary. Sheryl and David live life by what they call a ‘shared earning / shared parenting marriage’, where partners chose from the outset of marriage that all aspects of family life are shared equally. From a faith perspective, this would be an egalitarian marriage, for she states ‘a truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes… not where women have two jobs [parenting and work] where men only have one’. Sheryl claims that she doesn’t work past 5.30pm, that her and David ensure that one of them is available to do the school run, and that at least one of them eats with their children every night. Leaning in, as is the focus of her book, involves being able to also lean back.
What is clear is that these work / life rhythms don’t simply happen for their family. ‘We have to work at our lives. Spending time with our schedules is what enables family life to work. Unless we do that, of course the balance wouldn’t be there… our shared Google calendar is something that we are very intentional about. We know why we are doing this so that’s why we keep going. That’s what motivates us’.
This applies to both of them. On the same subject, David, who was also present, added ‘it really matters to us that we are not only present in our children’s lives, but in one another’s. Our work schedules mean that we feel pressure to look at emails in the evening and just quickly finish off that document within a tight deadline. And of course we have both been guilty of doing both of those things at times. But the reality is, the world won’t stop moving if those things wait until the morning’.
What can we learn here?
For the average Sophia Network reader, it’s probably fairly accurate to say that life is not like that of Sheryl Sandberg. And nor should it be. For those in ministry, evening work puts very practical challenges in place that does not always enable the flexibility to always eat together as a family. As ministry involves people rather than products, they are more difficult to say ‘no’ or ‘wait’ to. Critics might further suggest that Sandberg is ignorant to the everyday difficulties of many families, who struggle to make ends meet in a challenging economy. However, within the pressures and constraints of her and David’s work demands, it is clear that Sandberg will not compromise on prioritizing family. She is sure of her priorities and works at ensuring they are responded and attended to.
She is not afraid of representing the non-norm in putting boundaries around her working life and saying ‘no’ to unreasonable expectations, something for which she has been criticized. ‘I don’t believe that anyone who stands for change won’t be criticized… we need to move beyond the stereotypes, which starts by realizing and stating the stereotypes exist’.
- What are the expectations on you at work and at home, from yourself, and others around you?
- Are they reasonable?
- What adjustments need to be made to ensure that you are attending to your priorities, for a healthy work / life rhythm?
- What does leaning back mean for you?
Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, is available on Amazon here