Why Women (and Media) Love to Pick on Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer
I recently heard a crazy rumor about President Obama. According to unnamed sources, he works from home. In fact, these sources claim that throughout his first term most of his time in Washington was spent in his great, big, taxpayer-funded White House, despite the fact that his staff is expected to leave their homes and families and go into an office. Strangely, I have yet to see one outraged article about the president’s work arrangement. Not even from FOX News. But this past week I have seen countless articles lambasting a CEO for requesting employees come into the office, while this CEO enjoys the luxury of a built-in corner office nursery.
The CEO in question is Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who based on her recent press coverage can’t seem to do anything right, at least in the eyes of media and her most ardent critics, who seem to be comprised largely of women. She’s not alone. Headlines blared that Facebook big Sheryl Sandberg has struggled to establish early grassroots support for efforts to take the message of her girl power tome, Lean In, nationwide.
When reading about some of the criticism lobbed at Mayer and Sandberg, I couldn’t silence a nagging question in my head: what if they were men?
Picture a young, brash, Silicon Valley male hotshot, announcing that he would be building an inner-office nursery, because he did not want to sacrifice bonding with his newborn and helping his spouse, for the sake of his corporate pursuits? Why do I get the feeling he would be met with lots of “Awww. What a great guy and dad!” He would probably enjoy some adoring profiles in women magazines, and maybe The View. Even if he were requiring other employees to come into the office, it’s likely that being seen as an attentive father would soften his image, providing a helpful contrast to his tough, taskmaster, “you-better-come-into-the-office-or-else” persona. But for Mayer, the criticism has been vocal and prolonged. She is perceived as insensitive, and out of touch.
Similarly, if a male senior executive at Google announced that he made a point to have dinner with his children every day, how much would that little detail keep popping up in profiles as proof that despite what a shark some may think he is, he is more grounded than the average exec.
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