As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently and boldly remarked at the World Economic Conference, men are rewarded when they act in a way we would refer to as bitchy if the actions were completed by a woman. She says that boys are encouraged to be risky and competitive in their lives, while girls are told to play nicely and not be bossy.
And you know what? As much of a feminist as I am, I have to acknowledge that Sandberg is right. I’ve had a few female superiors I’ve referred to as bitches—heinous bitches, in fact—who may have simply been good businesswomen. Does lying to me, calling at all hours, and making unreasonable demands for little (or no) pay equal good business practices? I honestly don’t know; I’m no businesswoman. I would not accept this behavior from a man or a woman, however, and would quit a job if treated in such a way again, as I have done in the past.
That said, she has a point when it comes to how we speak to our children. I know I’ve asked my daughter to not be so bossy with friends, just as my friends have asked theirs, because they really can get, well, bossy! I would like to think I would ask the same thing of my son, if I ever have one, while simultaneously encouraging leadership through other venues, as I do with my daughter.
I would maintain that we don’t encourage either gender to be aggressive, forceful, apathetic toward others. Businesses are already run this way and that is a problem. While Sandberg is correct in that women and men should be raised equally in order to be real leaders, I think the method itself—as well as the product—needs to change.
Why not raise sustainable practice followers, kind leaders who care? My daughter has natural leadership abilities that we foster through activities like volunteering, 4-H, and role playing. We study famous women leaders—many of whom were so great because they cared, not because they were cutthroat. Perhaps the male leaders of the world should study these women, too.