ACI Working Moms Weigh In on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

By Laura McDermott
Media Relations Manager

I don’t get angry often. But I absolutely hate when someone says to me, “Oh you’re so lucky.” Whether it’s, “You’re so lucky you get to work from home” or “You’re so lucky you have help,” it’s a phrase I hear a lot these days, especially from other women – and it totally dismisses the fact that I’ve made conscious decisions, sacrifices and choices in my life and career which have had nothing to do with luck.

We've come a long way since then.

We’ve come a long way since then.

Wait a minute, rewind. I am fully aware that I am extremely lucky and grateful to even be able to make life choices, simply the result of the life circumstances I was born into. I didn’t have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or overcome insurmountable odds just to get to college. I just had to not entirely ‘eff’ things up, and I would be educated, with some earning potential, and be in a position to think about what kind of life I wanted and make choices accordingly. And I am well aware that there are plenty of working parents in the U.S. and around the world, in every circumstance imaginable, from extreme poverty to challenges beyond my wildest dreams – and they are working hard, with limited options in life, surviving day to day. They deserve our respect, our advocacy, and a chance at equal opportunity. Long story short, I recognize the role of luck (or divine intervention) in all things that are beyond my control.

But this particular discussion Sheryl Sandberg raises in “Lean In” is about all the things that are in our control. She recently sat down with Oprah for an interview about “Lean In” featured in the April issue of “O” Oprah Magazine, and here are my favorite takeaways:

· “Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. As a man gets more successful, everyone is rooting for him. That’s what the research shows. As a woman gets more successful, both men and women like her less.” This is so true. And I’m pretty sure women in the workplace, in politics, in any leadership position would agree.

My takeaway: Don’t let fear of not being liked impact career or life choices.

· Women should embrace their success and not fall prey to ‘imposter syndrome.’

My takeaway: Accept compliments and own your achievements, because you’ve earned them. No reason to take all the criticism to heart, while brushing off positive feedback. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great” (Golda Mier).

· “Men in general apply for promotions when they meet 60 percent of the criteria, women when they meet 100 percent.”

My takeaway: This stat should be a wakeup call for all women to ‘Lean In’ and take more risks, jump in the arena, and believe in our potential without needing 100% certainty.

Finally, Sheryl is open and honest about having a ‘real partner’ at home, and her challenges with working mom guilt, and this is where I think the issue becomes less men vs. women, and more a ‘modern family’ issue.

In the interview, Sheryl Sandberg says, “I really believe that there are good reasons, when you have a child, to leave the workforce or work less or take a different job. But I encourage women and men to make that choice once they have the child. By making it years in advance, you don’t get the right opportunities. You give up before you start.”

She’s 100% right. But the hard part is the family choices (which have not much to do with luck) that you make once you have the child. On occasion, my husband and I have both decided to lean back a little at work after having kids. He turned down a major project right after our son was born, and many thought that was career suicide. I scaled back my hours, decided to earn less, and many people thought that was a big mistake. We pay for a babysitter to come five hours a day so I can work part-time and not be in ‘mommy’ mode 24/7, and many people think that’s ‘luxurious’ and a waste of money.

These are conscious decisions we made, based on what is most important to us in life. We typically choose maximizing quality of life over maximizing profits and earning potential – but that’s just because that’s what makes us happy and allows us to enjoy our time together. And the one thing I’ve heard from every parent who has come before me is, “Enjoy it. It goes by so quickly.”

One thing is lucky though; we both work for companies that ‘get it’ (thank you ACI Specialty Benefits and especially Dr. Ann Clark!) and appreciate our work contributions while supporting our personal and family choices. And I can tell you for a fact that since having kids and working part-time remotely, I have never been more efficient, productive, motivated, and enjoyed work as much as I do now.

Do you suffer from ‘working mom guilt?’  Do you have some tips for other working moms out there trying to find their own work/life balance? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments, on Twitter @ACISpecBenefits, Facebook and Google+.  Be sure to check ACI out on Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn as well!

About ACI Specialty Benefits

ACI Specialty Benefits ranks in the nation’s Top-Ten providers of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), corporate wellness programs, student assistance, corporate concierge, and work/life services to corporations worldwide. ACI partners with clients to Perk Up employee engagement and performance with benefit programs that improve morale, productivity and the bottom-line. With a 95% customer retention rate and over 7 million lives covered. ACI remains a privately-owned specialty benefits corporation, headquartered in San Diego. For more information, visit or call 800.932.0034.
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2 Responses to ACI Working Moms Weigh In on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

  1. Tahdice tinney says:

    What a well written, thoughtful article. Your candor, openness to sharing your personal story is inspiration. It offers advice about when to do more, and sometimes when it is better to do less. Very hard choices and ones not to be taken lightly. From one working Mom to another…I admire youi! ttinney

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