destroying double standards

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Last week I re-posted in honor of my anniversary,”Tips for a long-lasting marriage or friendship“. The first tip I listed was partnership.

Then this morning I was reading the chapter, “Making Your Partner a Real Partner” from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg… so I have partnership on the brain today!


Sandberg writes mainly advocating for women in leadership, but this chapter
advocates very much for men.

One thing that has concerned me through the years has been the limited role of men in home and family. As a woman blessed to have a spouse who has been a “real partner” for our 28 years of marriage, I find it easy to advocate for real partnership in marriage, home, and work.

Sandberg mentions various barriers to real partnership at home that I have seen and experienced myself. She also suggests ways to overcome the barriers. I wonder if you can relate to any of these?

1. Empowerment

Just as woman struggle with lack of empowerment in the business world, men often face a lack of empowerment at home.Too many times I have heard women criticize their husbands’ for how they feed, dress, or interact with their children. In my opinion, these women not only sound disrespectful and insulting, but also prideful, and they are doing their marriage partnership a great disservice (and increasing their own work load). Sandberg correctly states, “Anyone who wants her mate to be a true partner must treat him as an equal–and equally capable–partner.“¹ it is fine to choose task assignments according to preference or skill, but assuming and communicating that a man cannot do (or learn to do) a good job at home is demeaning and de-motivating. On the other hand, empowering will help to take down the barriers between real partners.

2. Encouragement

Derogatory jokes, lack of role models, and social stereotypes all make it more difficult for men to openly and actively participate as full partners at home. I have known a few men who were the primary care-givers for their children. I have known more men who shared equally home and family responsibilities (my husband included).Others teased, questioned, and sometimes isolated these men because of their desire and commitment to actively engage as true partners, rather than praised and honored for their choices.Thankfully, these men did not have the (oft-ascribed) fragile male egos I am frequently warned about, and they refused to be discouraged or dissuaded by stereotypical expectations. Men and women both can do a better job at encouraging men when they act as true partners.

3. Employment policies

Most companies do not offer men the same paternal benefits that are available to women. According to Sandberg, “Only two states offer paid family leave that fathers can use”². Men often pay an even bigger penalty than women via social pressure, low performance ratings,and fewer advancement opportunities if they take time off to prioritize family needs. I believe we need to improve the organizational/governmental policies and laws to support true partnership.

Sandberg claims that true marriage partnership results in greater satisfaction, less divorce, and more sex³, and greater father involvement produces “higher levels of psychological well-being and better cognitive abilities”⁴ and “higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates”⁴ for the children. These benefits motivate me to work to eliminate the double standards that inhibit true partnership.

Are there ways you can improve true partnership in your marriage?

If you are dating, are you establishing true partnership patterns today for future marriage? 

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**For more chapter summaries from Lean In, read here and here.

¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, pg. 109, para. 2. 
² Ibid, pg. 113, para. 2.
³ Ibid, pg. 118, para. 1. 
⁴ Ibid, pg. 113, para. 1.

do nice girls finish last?

Lean InI am making my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and chapter three made me stop and think a bit. The chapter is called “Success and Likeability”, and Sandberg starts out with a Harvard Business School case study based on the experience of an entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. Sandberg writes:

The case described how Roizen became a successful venture capitalist by using her “outgoing personality… and vast personal and professional network [that] included many of the most powerful business leaders in the technology sector”. [The professors] assigned half of the students to read Heidi’s story and gave the other half the same story with just one difference – they changed the name “Heidi” to “Howard”.

[The Professors] then polled the students about their impressions of Heidi or Howard. The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent… their accomplishments were completely identical. Yet while students respected both Heidi and Howard, Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi, on the other hand, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The same data with a single difference – gender – created vastly different impressions.¹ (emphasis mine)

Sandberg argues that the case study further proves research that,”When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”² Sandberg explains that from early on, girls learn that intelligence and success are not the path to popularity. In addition, socially acceptable behavior allows men to claim credit for achievements and assertively negotiate for higher salary, whereas a woman is perceived as arrogant and self-serving if she does the same. Women are expected to help without reward, and care and advocate for others.

The ultimate goal is to eventually eliminate different attitudes and treatment based on stereotypes, but until then Sandberg offers a few suggestions for women. I’ve re-written them in my own words here:

1. Pay the price – Women need to accept that there will be unfair biases and criticism. Sandberg suggests that we allow ourselves to feel and work through the emotions generated by the criticism, but then move on and do our job.

2. Play to your strengths – Some of the common “nice” characteristics ascribed to women – caring, communication, community – greatly improve teamwork. As women smile and appreciate others – while focusing on the task – productivity increases.

3. Position yourself communally – Women will have more success in negotiations when they use “we” vocabulary as context for their requests. Petitions couched in common interests and concern for the common good are more readily accepted from women than those that appear self-centered or self-promoting.

4. Purpose to become comfortable with power – It will take concentrated effort to change mindsets and perspectives based on years of habit and feedback, but as women work to become more comfortable with their power, they will also lean in with greater confidence.

Have you ever struggled with the “nice” girl dilemma? What do you think of Sheryl Sandberg’s tips for overcoming that stereotype?

For my men readers… what do you think? Are women held to a different standard than men?

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¹ Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. Chapter 3, para. 2-3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

² Ibid. Chapter 3, para. 4.