The reception received from the first part of our interview has been great so far. Thanks to our readers for sharing your thoughts and sharing the article. If you have not yet read the first part of the conversation, have a look. Lean In: From a guy’s perspective.
Sheryl also mentions like-ability in the book where when a women is being strong and assertive, it comes across as being aggressive whereas for a guy being assertive is more accepted. Have you seen the same thing come across in your experiences?
I can’t think of an example of the top of my head but I definitely know it happens but that problem also goes to other ladies saying the same thing. I’ve heard a female manager saying that she prefers working with guys and I asked ‘why’ and she said that ladies can be emotionally volatile. It’s the stereotype that has been built up.
It speaks to why as women we sometimes have to be conscious of what we say for fear of being labelled catty.
Picture a scenario of a team of guys in a meeting where a lady just comes point by point knocking out everything that has been presented by one of the guys. The guys walks of out the meeting with the embarrassment that all the guys saw him being disrespected by a lady. If it had been a guy knocking out the presentation, it would accepted a lot easier. The treatment should be the same regardless of where the criticism comes from.
Sheryl Sandberg also mentions mentorship in the book. There are fewer women in leadership in Supply Chain, which calls for me having male mentors. Personally, there is a sense of discomfort for me based on experience and what I have seen as some guys have ill intentions towards the process. This means I then limit myself at having a wider array of choices of mentors. Do you feel a similar way about being close to your female counterparts or even having female mentors-the few that are in your industry?
I think the biggest worry is even if nothing happens, perception may always question close relationships between men and women in a professional setting. The two approaches I can think would be group mentorship which removes the unnecessary discomfort and the other way to approach it is that your mentors don’t always have to be in the same company or in the same industry.
Another thing I wanted to discuss was when Sheryl mentions that most men attribute their success to innate qualities, being intelligent, good people skills and so forth whereas women tend to downplay their contribution to success being to more external factors and sometimes even luck! Do you see yourself speaking typically of what Sheryl has said?
I think it could be a character thing. I have always come from a more humble perspective. I know where Sheryl’s statement is coming from but it’s not something I have done myself. On the one side, I don’t believe in claiming all the glory and being pompous about one’s achievements. At the same time, I also don’t believe in understating your own achievements and not believing in yourself. I think there is some middle ground where you know you put in the effort and you should recognize your part in your success. I understand where Sheryl was coming from. I think in that regard she was trying to encourage ladies to believe in themselves and understand that they got there because they actually put in the effort.
In Lean In, Sheryl also talks about the Leadership ambition gap and I can link it to another statement that she makes which is ‘Don’t leave before you leave’. I can testify to the fact that some women talk about the ambition to one day be married and have kids almost limit themselves, preparing themselves for something that has not even happened yet. It is sad but true. Do guys ever connect their career plans to the same possibility of being married with kids in the same way?
I think guys do think about it. They just delay those kind of decisions to later on. They give priority to their careers when their young. Which is why she says ’don’t leave before you leave’. Guys are actually doing that from the onset. I do hear guys making those trade-offs and compromises a lot later. There is also nothing wrong with someone having the intentions of wanting to have kids and taking care of them full-time. Sheryl mentions it in the book.
I think part of comes from when in high school our parents tell us to focus on our studies but at same point when we get older, during university or when we are working, we start getting questions around our dating life and marriage plans. That becomes part of the goal. We are then made to believe that we should plan our careers around that goal.
So we have solved the problem! It’s the previous generation. It’s funny but there is an element of truth here.
Yeah and there are more women who have chosen to not be guided by that and so hopefully, more young women can realise that they can find someone who can complement their career and goals without making such sacrifices early on. I can imagine those ladies are probably not even with the guys they made sacrifices early in University.
In conclusion, what is the one profound thing you feel women should take from the book?
There were two big things for me. The one was when she said,
‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid? ’.
It’s a question that everyone should ask themselves. It has got to do with everything you are pushing for in life. A lot of the time we just don’t get where we want to because we are afraid. If you ask yourself that question, you start to open your mind and push towards that goal. The second one was
‘Proceed and Be Bold’.
So ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and now ‘Proceed and Be Bold’. Because the book has been read by more ladies than guys, I think the onus is for the ladies to push these conversations forward. Even if guys don’t read the book, women can have the conversations around the principles from it with their male counterparts.
Thank you so much Tanaka for sharing your perspective and being the first male guest on the blog!
Lee is a Supply Chain professional in the FMCG industry. Not satisfied with being confined to her day job, Lee is always reading something different. The development of women and Africa are what fuel her passion. She would one day love to have dinner with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and pick her brain on so many issues.