Lean In …to a Movie

The golden girl of the decade – Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer –  has just achieved another coup.  Sony Pictures has obtained the rights to turn Sheryl’s best seller self-help book, Lean In, into a movie.  My life, my blog could be a movie too.  (Notice the similarity in our first names:  Sheryl, Sherry.)  Except I think my story might be titled something more like “Leaned On” and billed more as a Lifetime movie.   

I’m not complaining.  I have had a much richer life and more experiences than I ever dreamed were possible growing up as a first generation Czechoslovakian on my mother’s side and second generation German courtesy of Dad.  It’s just that – well ….I wish I had Sheryl’s book and advice 30 years ago. 

Timing is everything.  

Born too soon – and now thirty years into my career –  is it too late to hope that I can achieve even a small modicum of Sheryl’s success?   At 21, I did not know I could be something or someone.  At 21, I was in the workforce as a secretary (before the term “Administrative Assistant took root) and working in an organization where name tags on offices signficantly spoke the LAST name of each worker led by first and middle initials.  In the early 1980s this perpetuated the archaic practice of addressing all the engineers and accountants (who were, in fact, all men) as “Mr. So-and-So.” 

Maybe Sheryl could not find a Ladies Room when visiting a New York office.  But I worked with women who called their bosses “Mr.” and whose careers had been interrupted by mandatory child care leave.  That’s right, in the latter half of the 20th century, it was still common in some American firms to force a woman to resign once she was pregnant.   

These women were my role models. 

Understand – I had parents who gave me a wonderful life and tremendous opportunities – and choices that they never had.  But in all that, there was little either my mom or dad could do to create a vision of Leadership or Management for me – let alone one that would have a female in the lead role. 

Nevertheless, I did have a sort of natural instinct that told me most gender differences were poppycock.  When my mother would hover over my brother’s dinner asking if he wanted mustard with his hot dog – and instructing ME to go get the mustard for him – I would very kindly (risking a slap across the mouth from Mom) state: “He can get it himself.”

Now….try to translate that behavior into the workplace.  When Mr. Smith stopped me to announce that Mr. Jones wanted a cup of coffee in the 1980s, I handed him a quarter for Mr. Jones to go to the coffee machine himself and get said coffee.  My – ahem – “sense of humor” was not well received.

Fast forward to 2014, and I have worked my way up into a legitimate IT Manager position.  (Pats on the back here, if you don’t mind.)    The world has come a long way.  And still has a LONG way to go.

You can agree or disagree with Sheryl Sandberg’s notion of “leaning in.”  You can take apart her words and dice them and mince them into something she likely did not mean.  The important thing is that she said it.

Sheryl said what few people anywhere have been able to say, and that is simply this:  men and women are different. 

This does not mean that a woman cannot hold the same job a man had.  As I often mentally remind myself, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. . . backwards. . . and in high heels.  Thing is, Ginger did not think she had to act like the men or be someone she wasn’t.  And neither do I.

In my life, in my career, I strive to be authentic.  And what I ask of others is that the be authentic with me.  Yes, it hurts sometimes.  And, yes, I have gone into the Ladies’ Room to cry at times.  But my honest co-workers have made me a better team member, a better manager, and a better person. 

So, let’s have the discussion.  And bring on the movie, Sheryl!  The more that is said, the more that the floor is open to discussion of the issues that are holding women back from leadership positions, the more we have to gain as a society, as an economy, as a community. 

I am not the only working female that did not have role models.  I am not the only woman that still struggles against perceptions and constraints of who and what I should be.   But I’m not so sure that all the other women out there – and all the men who could be partnering shoulder to shoulder with women – will read the book.  MAYBE they’ll watch the movie.  MAYBE the movie will keep the conversation, the Tweets, the Vines, the SnapChats going and going like ripples on the water, forever changing the shape of the working world we know. 

It can’t hurt.

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House Cleaning Routine

My mother was a disciplined creature.  In the first half of the 20th Century, when my mother landed on American soil, there was no greater platitude to aspire to than Cleanliness is next to Godliness.  We might make snarky remaks about that today.  But the reality is that our new industrial world was fraught with disease and death was an all too well known occurence.  For my mom, that started at the age of three with the death of her siblings from influenza.   My mom was ALWAYS busy.  Mondays and Tuesdays were laundry days, Wednesday was grocery day, Thursday she cleaned the upstairs, Friday she cleaned the downstairs.  I always knew when it was Saturday.  That’s when she sent me outside to wipe down the wrought iron railings on both porches.  30 feet of them.

If you grew up in early industrial America where cement and steel manufacturing thrived, this would all make sense to you.  In our neighborhoods, women routinely went outside every morning and swept the dust off the sidewalks and out of the gutters.  Sounds silly.  But it was really necessary.  Otherwise, all that thick dust got dragged into the house and was ground into the floors and – worse – into the carpets.  And in the age that preceded the modern vacuum cleaner, one had to literally beat the carpets to attempt to expel the dust.

Dirt and dust became caused bugs according to my mother.  She may have been right.  And bugs made you sick.  And sickness meant you couldn’t work.  And in the steel and cement mills, if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid.

We’ve come a long way.  But I never for once forget that the cement and steel mills gave me the life I have today in the 21st century.  And the discipline with which my parents led their daily lives became my own work ethic.  I don’t think I turned out too badly either.

The Princess and The App

My parents were full of axioms intended to keep their children’s feet firmly planted on the ground. (No unnecessary ego boosts from them – no sir!) And I admit to dusting off a few of these useless sayings for my own daughters. The other day I whipped out “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” to which my witty 20-year-old said, “Well, now you can!”

You remember the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, right? In this classic story, it seems our Prince is having difficulty finding just the right girl to become his partner in life. But in the millennium there’s an app for that — an app that really does let you quickly “judge a book by its cover”.

Enter Tinder, the latest innovation for smart phone users who want to find a new friend. Tinder takes the worry out of blind dating. There’s no more useless, wasted time creating and searching endless inventories of what you like and don’t like. With Tinder, you simply create an account by linking it to one of your existing social media accounts and off you go. You are shown individual photos of potential matches, and you simply drag the photo to a green heart if you like the way the person looks or “x’ him/her out if you dislike what you see.

Tinder App let's you judge a book by it's cover.

Tinder App let’s you judge a book by it’s cover.

Is your job and frequent travel keeping you from finding your perfect match? No worries. Tinder uses location services to identify people in your vicinity. Simply open your app and let Tinder find someone nearby your current location. When you see someone you like, hit the heart on the photo and let Tinder do the rest.

The catch is that someone else somewhere else is also judging your book by your cover.

If you’re lucky (?), someone whose photo you liked will like you back. And, hence, a match is made in heaven. (er, that is, in the cloud somewhere.)

I still really believe you can’t judge a book by its cover. But Tinder is doing nothing more than capitalizing on human behavior.  We judge first based upon what we see on the outside.  Tinder is just the enabler.

30 Days, 30 Posts: NaBloPoMo is here!

Dedicated to sharing knowledge, experiences and information? Me too! #NaNoWriMo

The WordPress.com Blog

There’s a lot of buzz each November around NaNoWriMo — you may notice some of your favorite blogs dedicating themselves to churning out 50,000 words this month.

If 50,000 words seem like 49,000 too many or you’re more interested in blogging than writing a book, NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month — might be your speed: a challenge to post once every day for the entire month of November. No theme, no word count, no rules; just you, your blog, and 30 new posts.

NaBloWhatNow?

NaBloPoMo started in 2006 in response to NaNoWriMo; not every blogger has the time or inclination to write a book, but the idea of a challenge that forces participants to stretch themselves, grow as bloggers, and be part of a supportive community is undeniably appealing. As founder Eden Kennedy, the power blogger behind fussy.org, put it:

If there’s one thing creative people…

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That Girl

Anna Elizabeth Tarovitzky stepped off the boat, her tiny hand clutched tightly to the hand of Suzanne Tarovitzky. Suzanne, a young woman in her early 20’s spoke no English, but found her way thru customs and all the way from the port in New York to the small village of Ormrod, Pennsylvania. It was the early 1900s. Public transportation of any type was scarce, difficult and long. Methods of communicating were largely paper and pen. Yet, this young woman, barely in her 20s and toting a child traveled from Czecho-Slovakia (as it was known at the time) all the way to tiny Ormrod, Pennsylvania.

Suzanne was my grandmother whom I never met. And Anna was my mother. And I am “That Girl” – the girl who came of age in the late 60’s and 70’s watching Marlo Thomas on TV and not knowing all I could do and not realizing the strength that lay within my own genes. I watched Marlo’s independence in New York City and never thought that could be me. And yet, in my own way, I hope that I became “That Girl”.

This blog is about all the wonderful people and experiences that made me, me.