Lean In Chapter 10: Let’s Start Talking About It

I LOVE that God made me a woman and could certainly spend a lot of time expounding on the positive experiences I’ve had of being made in His image as a female.    However, when I think of the lives of women world-wide and throughout history, unfortunately the word that comes most strongly to my mind is…disappointment.  For the all the power, strength, dignity and beauty that women carry, we are all too frequently a disappointed group.

Just from reading Lean In, I think of all the women who fought for equal pay, yet never received it.  But it goes beyond that.  I think of the women who asked eager questions, yet were belittled or patronized.  Women who spoke up against harassment, yet were unheard or harassed further.  Women who showed up, yet were ignored.  Women who were denied justice over rape or abuse.  Women who were bright and competent and hilarious and kind, yet were asked to stay in a box.  Women who were beautiful, yet shamed for their looks.  Women who were intelligent, yet disliked because of their brains.  Women who were powerless and fearful, and given no one to speak up on their behalf.  Women who gathered their courage and found their voice, only to be called curse words.  Women who dreamed and risked and wondered and studied, all in vain.

The silent multitude of disappointed women cram and even burst our history books, our offices, our churches, our homes.

This seems like something worth talking about, right?

In her penultimate chapter of Lean In, Sandberg addresses the simple significance of beginning the conversation around gender issues and equality in the workplace (and to a lesser degree in the home and in society at large.)

Shutting down discussion is self-defeating and impedes progress. We need to talk and listen and debate and refute and instruct and learn and evolve.

She shares the usual convincing slew of anecdotes and research statistics that show more satisfaction, productivity and health occur across the board in both men and women, when both sexes are working as equals and engaging in the gender discussion.  So not even landing on a perfect solution, merely talking about it makes a difference!   Sandberg’s entire book, and specifically this chapter, urge women and men onward to start new conversations and continue old ones, to press on from disappointment.

Here are three words I pulled out of the major theme of the chapter that I think are key to encouraging this conversation.

First, the nasty “F’ Word. 

Okay, it’s probably for the best that I whisper this one……feminism.

It’s hard to have a conversation about equality between the sexes without this one flying around #amiright?   Sandberg herself says she avoided the label of feminist in her early days..

“It sounds like a joke:  Did you hear the one about the woman taking a feminist studies class who got angry when someone called her a feminist?  But when I was in college I embraced the same contradiction.  On one hand, I started a group to encourage more women to major in economics and government.  On the other hand I would have denied being in any way, shape or form a feminist…we accepted the negative caricature of a bra-burning, humor-less, man-hating feminist”

Post-college and in the early years of her career she still struggles with the label even in the midst of trying to have this dialogue…

“It was a no-win situation.  I couldn’t deny being a woman…and defending myself just made me seem defensive.  My gut and the signals I received from others cautioned me that arguing the issue would make me sound like a strident feminist.  And I still did not want that.  I also worried that pointing out disadvantages women face in the workforce might be misinterpreted as whining or asking for special treatment.  So I ignored the comments…”

If I talk about women’s issues on my blog, will I be labeled a feminist?

If I highlight injustices and inequalities, will it be assumed I am a man-hater?

If I share my own hurts and experiences, and those of my sisters, will I be called whiny and divisive?

It’s hard to advocate for change and not be called a trouble-maker.  It’s even harder to advocate for women’s rights and not be called a feminist (as an insult).

But thanks to women in the secular world like Sheryl Sandberg and others, I think that word is being reclaimed for good.

I mean, Hermione Granger is talking about it…

Chapter 10 A

Internet memes are talking about it..

77 cents

And everyone shuts up and listens when Malala talks…


But what encourages me even more is the way Christians have added their voices.  Even if one is not comfortable with the F-word, (many) men and women in the American evangelical church are realizing that things are not quite right between the sexes and even if they stumble and struggle and disagree on the nitty gritty, earnest conversations are happening.  Christians like Author Sarah Bessey even attempt to reclaim the idea of feminism:

One needn’t identify as a feminist to participate in the redemptive movement of God for women in the world, The gospel is more than enough. Of course it is! But as long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.

So, for some it is a badge of honor, for some it is an insult.  I suggest, and I think Sheryl would agree, that we don’t let the lingo get in the way of the issues.

What are your thoughts on the F-word?

Okay next, the awful “B” Word…

Bias.  Something other people have, certainly not me!  (<– sarcasm font)

Sandberg illustrates how delicate this subject is – NOBODY wants to be told they have a bias!  But she shares some important research:

A 2012 study found that when evaluating identical resumes for a lab manager position from a male student and a female student, scientists of both sexes gave better marks to the male applicant.  Even though the students had the same qualifications and experience, the scientists deemed the female student less competent and offered her a lower starting salary and less mentoring.

This study was a killer:

When evaluating identically described male and female candidates for the job of police chief, respondents WHO CLAIMED TO BE THE MOST IMPARTIAL actually exhibit MORE bias in favor of male candidates.  This is not just counterproductive but deeply dangerous.  Evaluators in that same study actually shifted hiring criteria to give men an advantage.  When a male applicant possessed a strong educational record, that quality was considered critical to the success of a police chief.  But when a male applicant possessed a weaker educational record, that quality was rated as less important.  This favoritism was not shown to female applicants.  If anything, the reverse happened.  When a woman possessed a particular skill, ability, or background, that quality tended to carry less weight.

That’s crazy!  As an added challenge, when the idea (or gentle accusation?!) of being biased is brought up, people either discredit that as not being true, or at worst are put on the defensive and made angry.  We are seeing this a lot in the race discussions happening in our country right now, but I firmly believe it is absolutely essential to be humble enough to admit that entire systems, and our own human hearts, are riddled with bias.  It’s actually 100% natural and to be expected as a result of living in society.  Being able to admit bias not only removes the huge burden of pride and the desire to pretend we are perfect and live in perfect communities, but it is also necessary to move the conversation forward in a productive way. 

How do you react at the suggestion that you might be biased in some areas?

And lastly, The Beautiful “S” Word

Shalom. So Sandberg doesn’t use this word, but it is the Hebrew word for Peace and she is Jewish so, um, it sort of belongs?


Harmony, Wholeness, Peace, and Unity between men and women, what a vision to behold!

Truthfully a lot of what Sherly Sandberg talks about in Lean In such as board meetings and private jets and working with congressmen feels so far away from my life.  I don’t even own a blazer or a pair of sensible pumps!  But I am drawn into this conversation because of my faith, because of God’s heart for Shalom, for The Blessed Alliance of his Sons and Daughters.  So while I can’t really name any CEOs, male or female, I can share my passion for God’s creation.

Long before Sheryl and Malala and Hermione (sorry, I know her name is Emma, I just am a Harry Potter super fan)  and long before the Suffragettes and Gloria Steinem…there were two men engaging in this.

The first is the apostle Paul who based on little snippets of scripture seemed to work quite well alongside women and who, while honoring the uniqueness of the genders, was talking about some pretty counter-cultural things for his day.  The Message version of his first letter to the Corinthian church puts things like this:

0-12 Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.

And then he writes to the Galatian church,

 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal.

And then there is the certain somebody called Jesus.  He’s my favorite.

His love for women, treatment of women, honoring of women and inclusion of women brings me to tears.

Every. Single. Time.

My personal belief is that God’s vision for men and women is one of Shalom that is characterized by intimacy, equality, joy, and partnership to reflect the very heart of our Creator.  I wonder what our relationships and spheres of infuence and world would look like if we embraced this, if we started talking about it more?

Where do you see glimpses of Shalom between the sexes?  Where do you long to see it more?

Gender equality is messy because we live in a broken world, and it is so awkward to talk about even in the healthiest and most well-intentioned situations.  It’s easy to feel accused, demonized or misunderstood as men.  It is easy to feel like man-hating, whiny troublemakers as women.  Add the many layers of religious ideas, cultural norms, pride, ego, fear, privilege, race  (and throw it all on the internet for good measure!) and oh my goodness what a HOT MESS we have!

I hope we can, ahem, Lean In to this hot button issue because as Sandberg writes (regarding office dynamics)  “while gender was not openly acknowledged, it was still lurking below the surface”.   So talking, even if it is a heated debate, is always better than lurking.

Issues for women across the globe range greatly from extreme ones like gendercide, spousal abuse and sex slavery to things like equal pay and breastfeeding in public – but regardless of the degree or severity,  there is a robbing of dignity and an inflicting of trauma that occurs with each and every instance.

While I can cling to hope for the day when there will no longer be disappointment, inequality, or oppression for women because of my faith in Christ and a coming Kingdom that is promised, I am also called here and now.

So, I talk about it.  

blessed alliance

Lean In Chapter 9: The Myth of Doing it All

I was recently (self) assigned the task of three-hole punching 30 separate stacks of 43 page documents.  If you know anything about the fabulous world of hole punchers, you know that there is no way on God’s green earth that you can successfully punch a stack of 43 pages at a time.    I had to divide each stack into smaller stacks that wouldn’t make the Kinko’s equipment explode or leave me cursing bits of mangled paper.  When all the hole punching was done (Glory be to God!), it was now time for the yanking and pulling involved in fitting my papers into those STUPID LITTLE METAL BRADS of a pocket folder.  All of this really isn’t’ that big of a deal except for one little detail I haven’t included:  my four year old insisted on helping me.

Trust me, I tried my best to distract him with mind-numbing iPad games, but he insisted.

Halfway through this process, right about the time I was ready to chuck the hole puncher through a window, my son looked up at me and exclaimed excitedly “Thank you mommy!!!”.

“For what?”  I asked.

“For letting me help! ” he replied with a sweet little grin on his face.   A grin that is usually reserved for chocolate milk or an extra TV show.

Getting to assist mommy in one of her real, live grown-up tasks with actual grown-up tools (a three hole punch is TOTALLY a tool) was meaningful for him, on par with sugary treats.

Participation is one of the greatest gifts God gives to us.   And not just made-up tasks like I sometimes give to my four year old to make him feel special (or um, get him out of my hair…), but real, meaningful, actual purposeful participation.   I had to take several deep breaths and say a few prayers for patience as my little guy was helping me because I didn’t really want his help.  I wanted to do it myself so I could do it right and do it fast.  (that’s sort of my life motto, actually).

But God is so unique.  He gives us a desire, so that he can fill it.   God builds into our identity a desire to participate and then gives us the invitation, the green light, the tools and the power.  Even when I make big mistakes.  Even when I take forever.  Even when He could do a better job without me muddling it all up.

Sheryl Sandberg’s ninth chapter The Myth of Doing it All is an honest look at what happens to our neat, ordered lives when we dare to participate.   Hint:  it’s messy.  And she doesn’t sugar coat what her life looks like and I really appreciated that.  She shared some honest-to-goodness humiliating, difficult stories from her own life as a wife, mum and career woman.

Perhaps the part that stood out to me the most, because it rang the most true for my life, was when she shared from the wonderful and talented Tina Fey from personal interviews as well as Fey’s AWESOME book Bossypants.

Tina Fey noted that when she was promoting the movie Date Night with Steve Carell, a father of two and star of his own sitcom, reporters would grill Fey on how she balances her life, but never posed that question to her male costar

Sandberg elaborates..

Employed mothers and fathers both struggle with multiple responsibilities, but mothers also have to endure the rude questions and accusatory looks that remind us that we’re shortchanging both our jobs and our children.

I wish I could say she was exaggerating.  I recently started a new job and I have noticed a sudden and overwhelming concern that others have for the balance in my life .  While I know it is because people care about me and this is how they are expressing that care and it’s possible my insecurities are simply at play, it triggers a deeper and more defensive emotional response, especially because not once has anyone expressed concern to my husband over how he balances having a wife, two kids, a full time ministry job and serving a church.

It’s easy to feel a bit backed into a corner when balancing is your life’s goal.

Melinda Marshall writes in Good Enough Mothers about the experience of working mothers,

This is called juggling, an apt term since it implies that all the balls must be kept in the air and the juggler can never rest – she is doomed in fact to keep everything in perpetual motion without ever having the satisfaction of getting somewhere or finishing something.  Should the juggler tire, or relax her concentration the act culminates in failure:  the audience pays attention to the juggler only as long as she defies the inevitable.

This sets me, and other women from Tina Fey to my best friends, up for nothing but failure and cultivates a spirit of fear over that perceived failure.  Typically men who are in a stressful season at work, who also have to come home and spend time with the kids and do the yard work aren’t questioned at all – that’s just life!  However a woman will typically get a different response.    Fey writes in Bossy Pants

“The worst question (for a woman) is ‘How do you juggle it all?… People constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes.  ‘Your screwing it all up, aren’t you?’ their eyes say.

More than I fear dropping any proverbial ball in my life, I fear that others are waiting in the wings for it to happen, with “I told you so” lingering on their lips and in their eyes.  

Sandberg goes on to share struggles of maternity leave (I flunked Maternity Leave 101 so this one I totally related to!), the American culture of working around the clock and the agonizing decisions over prioritizing; noting that some things HAVE TO give.  If I attend this work meeting, I can’t attend this ballet class.   If I am a working mom, I can’t volunteer in the classroom.  If I am a stay at home mom, I miss out on opportunities, income and perhaps deeper fulfillment.   If yes to this, than no to that.

In her book “Gifted to Lead” Nancy Beach (who is executive vice president for the arts for the Willow Creek Association) addresses the Myth of Having it All and speaks a good truth that is also echoed a bit in Sandberg’s chapter to a lesser degree and that is:

Yes you can have it all, but not all at once!

This has been a mantra for me and some of the most freeing advice I have received.

I have told this to myself at least once a year since having kids.  I can have it all, but not all at once!  My life as a mother is so very seasonal and while it is not the only Participation that I am invited into , it is a substantial piece of the pie.

God invites us to full participation but as we follow him I can’t say the word ‘balance’ or ‘having it all’ really reflect a life of following Jesus.  Sometimes God leads us girls to abandon our careers to stay home full time with our children.  This is real, important participation – not a move of failure for having to let one of the balls drop.  The life of a Christ follower is a life of WORSHIP and a life of FREEDOM which are so powerful that they squeeze out any silly notions of balance or juggling.   Balance and juggling are for circus clowns, not for women, thank you very much.

A result of getting older (mid thirties baby!!!), having children, and listening to God is gaining a better sense of when to say yes, and when to say no – without any guilt attached.  So yes, having it all is indeed a myth as the great cloud of witnesses of Tina Fey and Sheryl Sandberg and Nancy Beach will attest to, in the sense that we cannot be in two places at once, we cannot add hours to our days and are limited to our two hands, two feet and one brain.

But life in the Kingdom of God, that glorious upside down Kingdom, has even better news.   We actually can have it all, God just redefines what “it all” means.

We can have

 1.   Full Participation.  Not balanced participation.  Not unattainable participation.  Instead, Holy Participation.  Whether this participation is as a full time stay at home mom, or full time mom with a 40 hour work week – we are participating with God, for God.  The Creator isn’t so tied down by definitions, schedules or what the world would deem as valuable and that’s good news to us.  Full participation means we have meaningful, actual work to do.  If juggling is for the clowns, than participation is for the saints.

2.  Freedom from comparison.    Lots of crappy stuff happens to women simply because we are  women.  But ladies, a lot of our problems come from how we relate to each other.    Jen Hatmaker says in For the Love:  Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards

“The trouble is, we have up-close access to women who excel in each individual sphere. With social media and its carefully selected messaging, we see career women killing it, craft moms slaying it, chef moms nailing it, Christian leaders working it. We register their beautiful yards, homemade green chile enchiladas, themed birthday parties, eight-week Bible study series, chore charts, ab routines, “10 Tips for a Happy Marriage,” career best practices, volunteer work, and Family Fun Night ideas. We make note of their achievements, cataloging their successes and observing their talents. Then we combine the best of everything we see, every woman we admire in every genre, and conclude: I should be all of that. It is certifiably insane.”

If our definition of “having it all” is being awesome at everything simply because we think it is expected of us, or because we assume other women are awesome at everything, we are drowning from the get go.  I have since given up on being Crafty Pinterest Mom (or the mom with the best abs).  Life is better over here.  

3.  Everything our hearts could possibly want… as God refines our hearts.  We have purpose, we have intimacy with our brothers and sisters and with God above.  We have a Holy Spirit of power and conviction and comfort.  We have unspeakable joy, unexplainable peace and unbelievable hope.  We have forgiveness of sins and new songs to sing every day.  Let’s allow those truths to reign in our weeks a little more than an unattainable standard of balance.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.  Ephesians 2 (The Message)



Lean In Chapter Eight, Make your partner a real partner

Partnership is truly a gift from God.  it amazes me how God prefers that we don’t work alone.  He provides partnership in ministry, in friendship, in vocation and perhaps the most beautiful manifestation of partnership is in husband and wife.

Here’s a picture of my favorite partner and me, back when we were young and fun.


Sheryl Sandberg arrives at a necessary place in this chapter, calling attention to the obvious fact that if women are going to be more devoted outside of the home; support structures, home management and spousal agreements will inevitably need to be altered.

As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home

Going off studies that report how in households where both the mother and father work full time, women are still doing 30% more childcare and 40% more housework, Sandberg builds a case for how husbands and wives need to be highly intentional to be successful at creating a more equal division of labor in the home.

As I mentioned in my recap of the previous chapter, I think that to a degree women are designed to care for the home, which includes raising children, planning and scheduling, and yes even cooking and cleaning.  So even if a woman is working outside of the home, she is still inevitably going to come home to her other full time job and have full ownership over that role.

This paragraph sort of encapsulates that idea:

The U.S. Census Bureau considers mothers the ‘designated parent’, even when both parents are in the home.  When mothers care for their children it’s called ‘parenting’, but when fathers care for their children, the government deems it a ‘childcare arrangement’.  I have even heard a few men say that they are heading home to ‘babysit’ for their children.  I have never heard a woman refer to taking care of her own children as babysitting.

Although there were the usual disagreements between Sheryl and me on how and why women and men are the way we are, I appreciated her sentiment, her advice and her applications.

Right now the Phillips arrangement is pretty traditional in that I am only working a small amount of hours/week (from home) and Jon works full time, therefor the majority of the house work, child rearing and home management falls on my shoulders.  Although these days of yoga pants, laundry and little children are loooooong, it has actually been a really beautiful and peaceful season of my life and in our home.

But even in our current arrangement where I am the little wifey in the kitchen and Jon is bringing home the bacon, we have a true partnership that brings so much life and joy to my heart and our marriage.  We acknowledge that we are both called to be Kingdom Workers and we have some shared spheres of influence (mostly our delightful preschoolers) as well as some spheres of influence that are independent of the other person or the home.  I am thankful for a partner who understands that my calling, while primarily used at home and taken up quite a bit as a wife and mom, is not limited to the home and will make every effort to support me.

As a summary of the chapter, here is a DO and DON’T list , that I think is pretty helpful in navigating work/home life for men and women:

DO communicate in advance of having children how it will work, what your goals are and what your expectations of each other are.

DO persevere, but be flexible!  If you are challenging the ‘norm’ or tradition or trying something new it is vital that you are committed, but flexible in how that looks!  Work situations change, passions change, seasons change.  and people change.  If you and your spouse are truly devoted to partnership, weathering these things will be much more manageable.

DO treat your partner as an equally capable partner.  This is mostly for women who want to micromanage the way their husbands cook, clean and put diapers on the baby.  (I was totally convicted by this one!)

DO take into account preferences and giftings when it comes to who will cook, clean, schedule, manage finances, etc…  Just as you would in a church or workplace, the home is no different.

DON’T forget that Stay at Home moms (or dads!) work full time, too.  Even if one spouse works out of the home and the other doesn’t, partnership is still needed because it provides the framework for good communication, mutual respect and ownership over the family life.

DON’T cling to tradition for the sake of tradition, only to end up miserable.  According to her research “When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises”.

DON’T perpetuate negative stereotypes of men who participate at home in child rearing and household duties.  It’s possible that a man can change diapers, grocery shop, cook dinner and watch kids during the day and STILL be a man!  Who knew?!?!

And now, in the spirit of true partnership, I shall share this blog post with MY partner in crime holy matrimony, Jon.  He was kind enough to respond to my questions while our kids watched Cars for the 3rd time this week 🙂

Kirsten:  What did we ‘get right’ when I was working more hours.  What could we improve upon, especially if I go back to working more outside the home?

Jon:  Things we got right:  I like that we had clearly defined ‘chore list’, especially before kids when we were both working full time.  But I also like that there were some unspoken agreements that we had, where I would just step in and help.  That was more about us working together and me serving you than checking things off a list.  I also like that we were creative with childcare and schedules.

Things to improve upon:  Designated time, not just designated tasks, to work on the house would be helpful.

2.  Kirsten:  What are your favorite and least favorite household chores?

Jon:  I don’t have favorites.    Alright fine, folding laundry. My least favorite are wiping down kitchen counters, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming.

3. Kirsten:  I joke about how if you die prematurely, I’ll spend the insurance money to hire a ‘manny’ to help me with the kids, the house and of course beat up intruders.  But really, as Sheryl Sandberg points out in this chapter, there is no replacement for YOU.  What do you bring to our home as husband and Daddy that no babysitter, housekeeper, security gaurd ever could?  Don’t be modest.

Jon:  No one cares for you and the home like I do.  A hired hand doesn’t love you and the kids like I do.  A partner isn’t a paid position, it just isn’t.

4.  Kirsten:  What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of our partnership?

Jon:  Strengths:  Emotional support, stepping in when the other is stumbling and struggling.  Knowing each others’ strengths and weaknesses as individuals and workers.  I utilize your input in planning things for students and ministry work.  You pick my brain for your own work inside and outside the home.  We’re good tag-team partners.

Weakness:  Neither of us is terribly motivated or intentional to move out of the ‘status quo’.  We will address problems instead of proactively bringing vision to reality in our home and family life.  We handle problems well, but parenting and Kingdom work are more than solving problems.  (I love this quote, good one hubby!)

 Kirsten:  When are you planning on cutting your hair?

Jon:  No comment

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;  male and female he created them 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  Genesis 1

Lean In Chapter Seven: Don’t Leave Before You Leave

This chapter is a perfect example of the incredible tension I felt reading this book, very much a clash of the worldviews.

Here is part of the introduction to Chapter 7:

 From an early age, girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good mother.  By the time they are in college, women are already thinking about the trade-offs they will make between professional and personal goals.  When asked to choose between marriage and career, female college students are twice as likely to choose marriage as their male classmates.  And this concern can start even younger.  And this concern can start even younger.  Peggy Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, related the story of a fiver-year-old girl who came home distraught from her after-school program and told her mother that both she and the boy she had a crush on wanted to be astronauts.  When her mother asked why that was a problem, the little girl replied “When we go into space together, who will watch our kids?”  At five, she thought the most challenging aspect of space travel would be dependable child care.

She shares several other stories about women and how , long before they ever become pregnant, let alone married, they will slowly make decisions that will inevitably end up with them passing up opportunities for success and advancement, or ultimately leaving the workforce altogether.

Of all the ways women hold themselves back, perhaps the most pervasive is that they leave before they leave.

Sheryl says that from an early age girls get the message of having to choose between either success at work or success at motherhood, but I would argue there is more to it than just a ‘message’ received or society being stacked against them (although these things are real, too)

I can recall moments in recent years of absolutely, completely BEGRUDGING my husband because he didn’t ‘have to choose’ between a calling outside the home, and one within the home.   It wasn’t because we are so traditional that we were stuck in him going off to bring home the bacon and me staying at home or enslaved by societal expectations.

Quite the opposite, actually.  My husband was constantly re-working his schedule and taking on more hours as the stay at home parent so that I could work more.   He is also extremely hands on and does his share of chores.  On top of that I was working for an organization that valued my role as a mother and was giving me lots of flexibility and chances to ‘opt out’ when needed.

So when I say ‘he didn’t have to choose’ and I did, it wasn’t about logistics.  It wasn’t about society.  It was about how God made me.

It was about a freedom in his heart.  And a lack of freedom in mine. 

It was just as a dear friend once told me:  there are lots of people who can do your work, Kir.  But there is no one else in the world who can be mother to Evangeline and Zachary. 

Flexibility, support, and a great husband were priceless.  But those things didn’t change my heart.     I was the five year old girl fretting and distraught about “When we go into space together, who will watch the kids?”.  Not because my husband didn’t value me or our family, but because it was my very heartbeat to nurture, provide and be thinking constantly about their needs.

And in my opinion, Sheryl misses that.

I believe that God created women in a very special way.  I believe that he created us to be mothers, even if how that is expressed varies from woman to woman.  He created us to be mothers, in a way that has less to do with having a uterus and biological children than you would think.  I know this because my daughter is only 5 years old and she is already a mother.  I know this because I know women who don’t have children, or can’t have children, yet in their own way they are mothers.  It is in their very heartbeat to nurture and provide and meet the needs of others.

So if women are considering this when making choices, because they value and recognize this component of God’s creation, it might just lead to them leaving the work place or passing up opportunities and I want to APPLAUD that, not try and force women to be something they aren’t.

But here is the kicker, here comes the real tension I would experience, not just in this chapter, but almost every chapter, while reading Lean In.  I would start off the chapter more or less clashing with Sandberg’s worldview, but as she dug deeper into the details I found myself agreeing with her points.  Oh the complexity!

The ideas that develop as the chapter goes on make sense, and those are:

1. Born with a uterus ≠ I’m going to have a baby!   Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”   As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  James 4: 13- 16.

Okay, so Sandberg doesn’t quote the New Testament, but this is essentially her point.  I know two women, one who started a savings account with her boyfriend and one who registered for wedding gifts with their boyfriend, both assuming they were going to get married (guess what didn’t happen?). I have met women who chose to become school teachers because it would be a good career for when they were mothers, not because they were passionate about education.  These kinds of decisions can lead a woman in a direction that is unsatisfying at best and harmful at worst.

We don’t know what will unfold in our lives.  Making decisions that glorify God is very important, but assuming that our lives will work out a certain way can be folly and so those dreams should be held lightly.

2)  Career and family choices are highly personal and vary greatly from woman to woman.  Some women are higher capacity women.  Some women have awful, bed rest, pregnancies.  Some women are bored and depressed being at home full time.  Some women don’t have a choice because of financial reasons.  Some women are extremely happy working more hours and are at peace with their childcare choices.  Some women are determined to be back at work and love their careers, but once they hold their new baby they change their minds.

3) We don’t have to choose between career and family in such a black and white way.  As I have shared in previous posts, my own work schedule and hours have varied greatly each year since having children, and remember careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.  Many work places today are flexible, offer choices to work from home, and are offering more maternity leave.  More husbands these days are more hands on and willing to share the work and parenting duties.

4)  Women need better cheerleaders.  Consider one of the last paragraphs in the chapter:

Imagine a career is like a marathon, where both men and women arrive at the starting line equally fit and trained.  The gun goes off.  The men and women run side by side.  The male marathoners are routinely cheered on:  “Lookin’ strong!  On your way!”  But the female runners hear a different message “You know you don’t have to do this!”  the crowd shouts.  Or “Good start- but you probably won’t want to finish”  The farther the marathoners run, the louder the cries grow for the men:  “Keep going!  You’ve got this!”  But the women hear more and more doubts about their efforts.  External voices, and often their own internal voice, repeatedly question their decision to keep running.  The voices can even grow hostile.

I have heard plenty of those voices in my own life, but in making the best choices for our children and lives ultimately we need to listen to God, listen to the voices we trust most, and ignore the rest.

Each year, each season, I need to evaluate and discern where my hours are spent, and how that affects my family, because like it or not any choice I make for myself affects the other three people on my team.  Most women wrestle very seriously with these questions, and when they come out the other end deciding to be at home full time, or part time, or to be a ‘career-loving parent’, they deserve our support, respect and kindness. 

 5. Don’t leave before you leave.   Wait a minute, didn’t I start off this blog saying I didn’t agree with Sandberg in this chapter?  Darn you Sheryl and your feminist logic!  But really, life is complicated and while my views on family, motherhood, womanhood and God differ, sometimes in stark contrast, from those presented in Lean In, leaving before we leave is sort of silly!

Whether your passion is to become a CEO or a homemaker, take each day, one at a time, and live it in such a way that honors God.  It is ultimately a question of trusting Him, so Lean In to the One who authors, saves, guides, convicts and makes all things beautiful, because He transcends these choices.  

Lean In Chapter Six: Are you my mentor?


Sheryl Sandberg flat out calls this an awkward and misguided question.

Will you be my mentor?

And to an extent I have to agree.

I have had young, eager college girls with a hint of desperation behind their wide eyes, asking me to ‘meet with them’ or ‘mentor’ them.

Mentor you in what, exactly?

But I have been on the other end, too, and it is just as awkward and vague.

Young, eager and more than a hint of desperation behind my own wide eyes.

Will you be my mentor?  Can we meet?

During this season of my life, I am floundering a bit.  I really miss having a formal supervisor.  I have lots of questions.  Lots of needs.  Lots of ideas.  And I just don’t know where to turn, or to whom to turn.

We have been created as relational beings, and need partnership, community, guidance, opportunity and wisdom; whether or not you are a fast-paced career person, a college student, or a stay at home mom.

It’s really just a fancy, professional way to say:  HELP ME!

She shares this anecdote from a time she spoke to Harvard Business School.  During the Q&A session, the men immediately asked great, specific questions like “What did you learn at Google that you are applying at Facebook?”.  However the first two questions from women were “Do you think it’s okay to work for a company that competes with the company you worked for before business school? and “How can I get a mentor”  She then writes:

My heart sank.  The men were focusing on how to manage a business and the women were focusing on how to manage a career.  The men wanted answers and the women wanted permission and help

This resonates strongly with me.  I feel alone in my endeavors and like I am muddling my way in the dark.  It makes more sense to just ask for a flashlight.

Sandberg and I agreed on some basic premises of mentorship, including:

A.  They are beneficial for both mentor/mentee.  There have been some crucial people in my life who have been formal supervisors and coaches.  Also, in a more informal fashion, those that have given me opportunities, taken time to meet with me or answer questions, passed on useful training and imparted priceless wisdom.  I have benefited IMMENSELY from others taking risks on me and sharing their time and energy with me.

On the flip side, some of my richest relationships, best times of personal growth, and most fulfilling moments have been when I was the mentor, not the mentee.

B.  They often happen better ‘organically’ than by the awkward “will you be my mentor” question.   Just like other relationships in life, when there is a ‘click’ of personalities, goals, mutual respect, it becomes more natural to continue pursuing that.

C.  More men should mentor more women, carefully.  Sandberg shares an example of a colleague who suggests “Breakfast and Lunch” meetings between opposite genders, as oppose to dinner meetings that can feel or appear an awful lot like a date.   My own husband has, rather successfully if I do say so myself, mentored lots of women in his work.  I actually think he is really gifted at mentoring women.  These relationships involve leadership development and debrief, but also because of the nature of the ministry, some counseling and prayer and personal conversations.  He pretty much only meets with these women in public places and sets clear boundaries, but his commitment to not just shuffling the females to the nearest ‘older woman’ but actually investing in them himself is a wonderful thing.  Of course sometimes they want to ‘talk to a woman’ about specific things, which is where I might come in 🙂

If most of the people in senior level positions – and that goes for ministries as well as fortune 500 companies – are men, my sister Sheryl and I think a level of intentionality on the part of these senior men would go a long way to help women.

There were a couple of points where I pushed back against her ideas and perspectives, and that is, once again, probably because I am coming from a ministry/stay at home mom perspective and she is not.  And you know, the whole Christian/non-Christian thing.

I think that it is possible that, while women are capable of holding their own in all spheres of society, they do bring different needs and concerns along with that.   Sandberg puts down the idea of this kind of relationship in the marketplace,

I asked what a mentor mean to to her.  She explained that it would be someone she spoke to for at least an hour every week.  I smiled, thinking, That’s not a mentor – that’s a therapist.  Few mentors have time for excessive hand-holding…using a mentor’s time to validate feelings may help psychologically but it’s better to focus on specific problems with real solutions.

In a previous chapter she applauded bringing ‘our whole selves’ to work, but apparently not in a mentor relationship?

But I think if women are bringing their whole selves to the table, then bringing our communal, emotional needs might be part of that package.  I fully distinguish between a supervisor/mentor and a therapist, but I also have been blessed by mentors who not only were furthering my professional development, but also impacted other areas of my life.

On the other hand, while I am not running Facebook (but man I’m on there enough!) I am running the Phillips Household and so I can’t hold a lot of hands right now.  One of the lessons I’ve learned is that I truly can’t say yes to everyone.  It is wise and discerning, albeit difficult, to choose who I can give my time to.  My time is valuable, and I am happy to say I have gotten a little bit smarter in using it since becoming a mom (ironically one of my mentors was key in helping me learn this!)

Here are a couple of tips, a meld of Sandberg’s thoughts and my own:

Don’t ask for a mentor, ask specific questions.  If one of those college-aged girls had asked me to help them learn how to cook, to help them pray, to help them study scripture, to help them manage a budget, I would have been far more excited to meet with them.

Similarly, there are specific opportunities I want and questions I have, so finding the right people to ask and the right questions to ask, is critical for me right now.

Acknowledge the ‘informal’ mentors you do have.  I don’t have someone who will sit down with me on a regular basis and talk in a one-on-one fashion.  I don’t have a supervisor.  If you asked me, I would say I really want a mentor but don’t have one.  But that is sort of a lie.  There are women who are teaching me, very much in the spirit of Titus 2, about their faith, about raising children, about the fruits of the spirit lived out over the ups and downs of years on this Earth.   Also, during this season of pretty much “just” being a stay at home mom, I have been provided some unique opportunities from people above me to grow and participate and learn.

Don’t expect a mentor to make you excel.  Excel, and mentors will find you.  This is Sandberg’s wording and I would change it a bit.  If we are talking about the Kingdom of God, and I am, Jesus simply asks us to say yes to Him. To follow Him.  To seek first His Kingdom.

If I am waiting around for someone to invest in me to fulfill my dreams and goals or to have a Kingdom impact or to mature me spiritually (or professionally), I may be waiting a looooong time.  But as I say yes to Jesus, yes to his Kingdom purposes both at home and at church and yes even in the workplace, I can trust God’s provision for partnership.    I want to be teachable, faithful and adventurous in Christ and for Christ.

Lastly, be a mentor.  Speak truth into younger men and women.  Be willing to share opportunities.  Don’t cling to your knowledge or skill set or ambition. Don’t fear the word mentor, or in the church, ‘disciple’.   Share what you do, what you know, and who you follow.  There is probably some lost soul just DYING to be in your kitchen, or your office, or across the table from you at Starbucks.

Christian Women Leaning In

I am  still on a bit of a ‘break’ from doing my chapter by chapter of Lean In.  I kind of lost motivation, but the point of doing it in the first place was to practice some discipline and follow through, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will get back on the Book Review Wagon.

In the mean time, here are two videos that speak into this idea of women and work, from two Christian women and their unique and Christian perspectives.

The first is from Shauna Niequist.  My sister-in-law gifted me Cold Tangerines  about 7 years ago, loved it, and I recently shared a bit about her latest book Bread and Wine here on my blog.  I watched this video about 6 months ago, and have since watched it about 10 times.  It really spoke to me and encouraged me to continue to pursue my calling, even if, as Shauna puts it, it is only for 4 hours a month during this season of my life.

The second is a recent one by Christine Caine.  I recently subscribed to her new online magazine called “Propel” which is sort of the Christian response to Lean In.  It’s about equipping women in the marketplace and this video is sort of the kick-off for it.  She is a little intense.  Or a lot actually. She says some outrageous things, shocking sometimes, but I love her passion for the world, for women, and for the cause of Christ and I appreciate her vision.  Check it out.

Lean In Chapter Five, Seek and Speak Your Truth

Back when I was pregnant with my daughter, I sat down with my InterVarsity supervisor and assured her that not much would change about my staff-life after this first child of mine was born.  I got this,  I said.

What I needed was a hefty dose of reality, but she knew that was coming for me soon enough, since my due date was around the corner.

Instead this mother of two was patient with my naivety, stating from experience quite the opposite; that work life will NEVER be quite the same after having children.  Sure enough about a month after Evangeline was born I found myself on the phone with her, probably crying, and most certainly tired, overwhelmed and a roller coaster of emotion (does that roller-coaster ever stop by the way?).

This gracious, wise woman who was both minister and mother didn’t come at me with a whip, or a reprimand or an eye-roll, but with a brilliant suggestion. She advised that for the remainder of the semester, I spend my time on campus investing only in the relationships and activities that were the most life-giving for me and that would help me feel the most connected to the ministry without adding too much stress or burden.

It was advice such as this that made it possible for me to navigate working and motherhood for those years.  I am thankful that I was with a Christian ministry that acknowledged that I wasn’t just a hired, robotic worker, but that I was a whole person. 

I was a disciple of Christ on my own faith journey with unique fears, gifts and passions.

I had emotional, physical, and spiritual needs that didn’t  vanish when I entered my ‘paid’ hours.

And now, I was a mother.  This changed who I was, my capacities and my priorities.

Being able to communicate my current needs and struggles (through sobs, of course) and having a boss on the receiving end value that, is absolutely priceless.

Chapter five of Lean In starts off simple enough by validating the need for this authentic communication in the workplace.   But my girl Sheryl really broadens the scope of what ‘authentic communication’ means and can look like, and how this is good news for women.

1) Honesty.  Duh, right?  Sandberg shares some areas where she has failed in this and also times when she has simply had bad ideas at work, and her employees have needed to bring this to her attention for the benefit of the company.  (FYI Her candor regarding her weaknesses and vulnerability throughout the book is awesome).

A friend once told me that ‘ministry is a series of difficult conversations’ but that mantra can be applied to lots of work scenarios and even personal relationships.  I needed to admit to my supervisor, on several occasions, that I was struggling with my work and until I was honest the situation couldn’t improve.  Likewise I have had to have some very hard conversations with students, bringing truth that I knew would hurt them, but it had to happen.  Alternatively, there have been times that I have had to sit and swallow some really tough feedback.  It hurts!

Honesty is such a simple principle, such a necessary one, but putting it into practice is possibly one of the hardest things to do.  Putting it into practice well is even harder.

For women who don’t want to be perceived as unable to keep up in a man’s world, too demanding or too problematic this can be a huge stumbling block.  But many women are underpaid, have very little support, or simply have brilliant ideas and need to authentically communicate for changes to be made.

2) Emotion.  Oh Sheryl.  Sheryl, Sheryl, Sheryl.  You are such a woman after my own heart.

Many women believe – and research suggests – that it is not a good idea to cry at work.  It is never something that I plan to do and is hardly recommended in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but on those rare occasions when I have felt really frustrated, or worse, betrayed, tears have filled my eyes.

She narrates a time she broke down in tears in a meeting with her boss Mark Zuckerberg, he offered a hug of comfort and compassion, and BAM!  It was a breakthrough moment for them and their work relationship.

Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships.  Motivation comes from working on things we care about.  It also comes from working with people we care about.  To really care about others, we have to understand them…recognizing the role emotions play and being willing to discuss them makes us better managers, partners and peers.

Preach it Sister Sheryl, preach it.

I have to say this approach is so refreshing.  I don’t want every day to be a mushy gushy cry-fest or toss self-control out the window, but pretending I don’t have emotions, and that they don’t ever come into play at work is silly and possibly even denying the fact that, gasp, women are emotional!  If we are going to show up to work, let’s show up as God created us. 

Some things that could warrant their own blog post in this area might be:

Emotional manipulation – I never want to use my emotions to get my way.  Not saying that I haven’t ever.  But that is not the standard I set for myself. 

Second, is exercising some wisdom and caution in relationships with members of the opposite sex.  I value intimacy.  I value hugs. I LOVE hugs.  I love working with both men and women.  My own husband counsels and meets with many women on a regular basis.  But we both know that there is a line and even though bringing our emotions to the table and growing in love and compassion is so beautiful, we have to be careful as well. 

Anyone want to write those?

3) The Whole Person

It has been an evolution, but I am now a true believer in bringing our whole selves to work.  I no longer think people have a professional self for Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time.  That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression, where people constantly update their Facebook status and tweet their every move, it makes even less sense.  Instead of putting on some kind of fake “all-work persona”, I think we benefit from expressing our truth, talking about personal situations, and acknowledging that professional decisions are often emotionally driven.

I really enjoyed several of her anecdotes in this chapter, one of my favorites was about  an acquaintance who was a partner in a prestigious law firm when her 7 month old baby was diagnosed with a rare syndrome.   By bringing her real life situation to work  her partners were able to offer compassion and be reminded that she isn’t just a bad ass lawyer, but also a wife and a mother and a daughter and a sister.  Not only this, but she also paved the way to create a culture of flexible hours at the firm which benefits men and women when illness and tragedy hits.  I remember sharing with the directors of the school I worked at that I had just had a second miscarriage and they listened with love and compassion.  As I went on to have both my children while still teaching there, I felt an extra measure of love and support from them.

We do a disservice to ourselves as complex human beings to think we can so easily compartmentalize work and home.

Sheryl closes the chapter like this

Maybe someday shedding tears in the workplace will no longer be viewed as embarrassing or weak, but as a simple display of authentic emotion.  And maybe the compassion and sensitivity that have historically held some women back will make them more natural leaders in the future.

Women do so much.  We raise children.  We keep homes.  We stay up nights and pump at work and sacrifice and bring forth life.  We work in every field imaginable.  We have deep faith.  And we have voices that need to be heard because they are voices of blessing, voices of wisdom and intelligence, voices of truth and beauty, voices of experience and voices of change.
So, my sisters, seek and speak your truth! 

Lean In Chapter Four, It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder.

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder”  – Pattie Sellers

I really latched onto this metaphor, perhaps because “Jungle Gyms” are a regular part of my life.

“Young man that table is NOT a jungle gym!”

“Little miss, the couch is NOT a jungle gym!”


Add to that the fact that I spend a hefty amount of time in my current profession visiting local parks and playgrounds and I really felt like this chapter was just for me.

I am an EXPERT at jungle gyms!


Sheryl Sandberg (who I decided I totally want to be friends with in real life) moves the conversation to a more practical place in Chapter Four, while weaving in those earlier themes of fear and ambition.

Here is my favorite paragraph that kind of breaks down the metaphors of ladders and jungle gyms:

Ladders are limiting – people can move up or down, on or off.  Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration.  There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.  The jungle gym model benefits everyone, but especially women who might be starting careers, switching careers, getting blocked by external barriers, or reentering the workforce after taking time off.  The ability to forge a unique path with occasional dips, detours and even dead ends presents a better chance for fulfillment.  Plus a jungle gym provides great views for many people, not just those at the top.  On a ladder, most climbers are stuck staring at the butt of the person above.

If the success/likeability discussion from the last chapter left me feeling helpless and sad, this chapter truly evoked a bit of hope for me.

I have started and restarted careers.  I have switched careers and switched back again.  I have taken time off.  I get this.

I’ll say it again, I am an EXPERT at Jungle Gyms!

I really wish I had design skills because I would love to see what an infographic of my own personal career journey has looked like, but my tools are words so I will try to use those to show a bit what each academic year (I still live by academic years in my world!) has looked like since leaving graduate school:

Year 1: Teaching post-secondary Spanish in three ways: community college, state university traditional classrooms and state university on-line classrooms, also volunteering in a ministry.

Year 2: Teaching post-secondary Spanish on-line and teaching both middle school Spanish and middle school advisory, volunteering in a ministry.

Year 3:  Teaching Middle School Spanish and Advisory and part time vocational ministry.

Year 4:  Teaching Middle School Spanish and part time vocational ministry.

Year 5:  Teaching Middle School Spanish and part time vocational ministry and being at home with my new baby!

Year 6:  Part time vocational ministry and another baby – left Spanish teaching behind!

Year 7:  Part time vocational ministry and on-line teaching (said “Hola” to Spanish teaching again!) and raisin’ those babies.

Year 8:  On-line teaching and stay at home parenting.  (i.e. becoming a domestic goddess)

Year 9:  On-line teaching and stay at home parenting.

I feel like a yo-yo but it matches up with what Sandberg is saying in this chapter.  She herself has been Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations for Google, the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury Department and is now COO of Facebook.  One recent study (2010) found that the average American had ELEVEN jobs between ages 18 and 46.

Even though becoming a stay at home domestic goddess, teaching Spanish and doing ministry seem like randomly disconnected jobs, I haven’t found that to be true at all.   In each area I  teach, serve, listen, mature and make a difference. Professional skills, instincts and ethics I have learned in education I have used in ministry and vice versa.   It’s not three separate ladders, It’s a jungle gym where I have grown in how to relate to people, teach them and lead them. 

Sandberg even jokes about how she had no idea when setting out that she would end up in technology, let alone Facebook, especially seeing as how Mark Zuckerberg was only 7 years old when she graduated college.  You can imagine what is going through my head when I disciple college aged women on “what they are going to do with their lives”.  I mostly just try and listen patiently, smiling knowingly that it will be a millions different things.

Right now is kind of tough for me, I have a couple of toes on the jungle gym and the rest of me is off.  I see lots of other women doing really neat tricks, like hanging upside down from the monkey bars, mastering the climbing wall and flying off the swings, furthering their distance each time.

And so while I sit off to the side, in the grass with my babes, getting their snacks and putting on band aids, I watch these other women.  And truthfully I feel left behind, but also in awe of what they are doing.

To know that I haven’t lost my place on any linear ladder, but that I can find a new starting point when I am ready to hop back on the jungle gym is reassuring, inviting and exciting.

As I mentioned before this chapter had some practical elements and here are two that caught my attention:

1) Emphasize a meaningful life.  Sandberg says her parents focused on that aspect in careers, dinnertime conversations and in supporting her and her two siblings in their endeavors.  She knew she wanted to make a difference and do something she loved, for her that has looked like working in technology and government but that extends to other areas of her life such as how she raises her children and her involvement in philanthropic activities.

I want my paid hours to be meaningful whether they are spent in education, vocational ministry or some other field.  I want my unpaid hours to be meaningful, too.  The nitty gritty of what that looks like – volunteering, homemaking, working in various careers – is just part of the fun and freedom of doing life on a jungle gym.

2) Goal setting.  Cringe.   This is a tough one for me because, full disclosure, I don’t naturally set goals for myself and actually resist them.  But just because we aren’t on a linear ladder doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have goals of where we want to end up.  At least that is what Sheryl (we are totally on a first name basis now) says.

Here are the types of goals she suggests:

A) Long term goal.  This one has been important for me lately because i am discerning what kind of work I truly want to invest in as my kids get older and spend more of their lives  at school (hooooraaaayyy  and also, waaaahhhhh).  Having in mind the dream of what I would really like to be doing is life-giving for me during this season of making endless amounts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watching Sid the Science Kid.

B) 18 month goal:  As I discern what my long term DREAM goals are, and even readily acknowledge they are somewhere ‘down the road’, I feel active and intentional knowing I can take some steps right now, even if they are baby steps.   Again for someone like Sheryl who is practically running Facebook this looks so hilariously different from my life, but it is still applicable.

C)  Personal growth:   How can I improve?  Well, the list is endless, really!  I can always be improving my writing, my parenting, my cooking, my use of Spanish and my ministry gifts.

If careers aren’t ladders, then I don’t have to worry what a ‘step down’ means.  Or a step away.  Or a couple of rides down the slide with a kid on my lap.  Phew. 

Since I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t have some closing questions, here are some for the road (or to think about as you fold endless piles of laundry…)

What has your career path looked like?  It is kind of fun to go back and reflect!

What decides how “meaningful” will be defined in your life?

What long term and short term goals do you have for yourself?

Lean In Chapter Three, Success and Likeability

This chapter sort of broke my heart because it spoke some truths that were just really hard to admit and really hard to accept. 

Performed by Colombia Business School and New York University, a case study was written up based on the real-life accomplishments of an entrepreneur named Heidi that listed her accomplishments as well as some personality traits relevant to attaining her success.  Out of the students assigned to read this case study, half were provided her real name, Heidi, and the other half received the case-study giving the entrepreneur the false name of  “Howard”.

In a nutshell the students in the study liked Howard but not Heidi, even though they were the same person.

This was perhaps the most discouraging paragraph in the book for me:

This experiment supports what research has already clearly shown: success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.  When a man is successful, he liked by both men and women.  When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.

Our stereotypes of men holds that they are providers, decisive, and driven.  Our stereotype of women holds that they are caregivers, sensitive and communal.  Heidi violated our stereotypical expectations of women. Yet by behaving in the exact same manner, Howard lived up to our stereotypical expectations of men.  The end result?  Liked him, disliked her.

Sandberg shares how she, along with “almost every senior woman” she knows has been described as “not well liked by her peers”, too aggressive”, “not a team player” and “difficult”.  She then shares how in her past she tried to hide or downplay her achievements because she knew it would make her liked less.

Um, can we just take a second here to grieve for every girl who tried to hide how smart she is, or what awards she has won – because she was worried that those things would stop both her male and female classmates and colleagues from liking her?


Assuming that they are working with integrity and kindness, I just don’t think women should have to choose between those two things.

I don’t think Evangeline should have to choose between those two things.

I don’t think I should have to choose between those two things.

I think it is really interesting to note that men are praised in our society when not only are they “providers, decisive and driven” but ALSO when they take on those stereotypical “female” qualities as well.  When we see a man who is a caring and gentle father, a sacrificial friend and a sensitive soul, we (okay maybe I am just speaking about women here!) LOVE it!  We love a man who can lead a tribe and care for it.

I am thankful to have not experienced this firsthand…unless people hate me behind my back because I bake AWESOME apple pies and lead a killer prayer meeting.

My primary background is in education, which is a very ‘female-friendly’ environment so seeing women who are successful at their teaching careers feels okay to us.  Along with education is my ministry work which has been primarily with an organization that actively supports women and in general is made up of people who are actually kind and loving toward each other!

I don’t think we need to throw away or ‘get over’ the stereotype that women are care-takers, sensitive and communal.  Because we are.  At least somewhere on the spectrum, just as some men are less driven then others or stronger than others.

God made male and female for a reason.

There is a purpose behind the two genders, and just as there are anatomical differences there are other unique things that women have to offer, and that men have to offer.  Instead of trying to erase these stereotypes or put them in opposition with other traits , I propose that we embrace them.  That we offer them.  Together.

Is it okay that I am ambitious and strong and decisive and nurturing, sensitive and communal?

Can we bring these beautiful ‘female’ qualities to the work place just as men bring their ‘male’ qualities to the home?   I hope so.  Because even though I love to be up front leading the meeting, sometimes I also need to, um, go in the bathroom for a good cry.

When I think about what I can do, as a Christian, about this phenomenom of success and likeability in women a couple of things come to mind:

1) Repent.  When I feel those biases towards a successful woman coming up in my own heart that threaten her likeability in my eyes, I need to repent, plain and simple.   If it is someone I know I may need to ask forgiveness.

2) Help a sister out.  I think it is possible that some women feel the need to take out the claws because frankly they know the deck is stacked against them.  If I can help the women I know who are currently working full time or pursuing demanding careers with friendship, childcare offers and lots of grace and prayer to let them know they are not only liked, but they are loved.

3) Not be afraid of how God created me.  Yeah, it’s true.  I cry a lot.  And I want to mother pretty much every person I meet.  I am also pretty ambitious and strong and decisive and sometimes I wish I were different.  But I don’t want to deny any part of me (so long as I am glorifying God and not harming others) because of what is or is not expected of me.  As women continue to rejoice in their identity and form and freedom, I think we will see change.  I hope so, anyways.

I want to be successful in my domesticity, in my relationships and yes even in my career choices.  But I also want to be liked.

Can I have both, please? 



Lean in Chapter Two: Sit at the Table

People say they see me as confident, but I think it is mostly because I am tall.

Recently I have taken steps to minister in a new context, away from the college ministry I was accustomed to, and found myself leading a training on listening prayer with people mostly older than myself and I was ACUTELY aware of the fact that I probably should have just stayed home that morning.  It was an intimidating step for me and I was feeling shaky in this new context and was certain everyone in the room could see just how I felt – like a little girl coming to ‘play’ meeting.

In Sheryl Sandberg’s second chapter of Lean In, she once again weaves her own story and experience with research-backed studies.  In some such studies it has been proven that time and time again women will not only underestimate their ability (regardless of how competent, smart and prepared they are) but are also significantly more likely to attribute external factors to their success, as oppose to their male counterparts who attribute their own awesomeness to their success  🙂  (As a side note, although there are lots of studies presented that compare men and women, as well as all kinds of societal dysfunction mentioned, there is ZERO man-bashing.  Sandberg is a professional who works with men, who hires men and works for men, and she has great respect for men – I so appreciate that tone and that gave the author a lot more credibility speaking into these topics!)

On the anecdotal end she began the chapter by describing a meeting she hosted that was kind of a big deal.  The majority in attendance were men, with the exception of four women.  All four women chose not to claim seats at the conference table, but rather sat in the chairs lining the perimeter of the meeting room.

“The four women had every right to be at this meeting, but because of their seating choice, they seemed like spectators rather than participants”

Just like how in Chapter One she attributes fear as the root cause of the lack of outward ambition by women, Sandberg digs a little deeper to some underlying issues in regards to women putting themselves out there (whether it is raising hand in class, applying for a new position, etc).  I love that she does this because I may never have the command of a board room, but the basics of what women experience are similar underneath it all.

The shared attribute that she is referring to, that many women experience, is that of “feeling a fraud”.  That day when I was leading a prayer training I was in my element, but that didn’t stop me from feeling  like a bit of a fraud, and on some level I was waiting for others to see it, too.  But the truth is I love teaching and training.  I love casting vision for others.  I love prayer and I loved the people in the room.  According to my beliefs I am even empowered and given the gifts and abilities to do these things with spiritual authority and annointing.

Sandberg endorses the  “Fake it ’till you make it” strategy in this chapter.  For women who don’t feel confident, or are about to aspire for something that may legitimately go beyond their experience and skill level, she recommends they “fake it” because based on her knowledge and research, women don’t lack the ability, they lack the confidence.

I don’t think it is just the boardroom where women feel like frauds.  As a woman who spends most of her hours as a mother and homemaker, I have moments when I feel like a fraud. Sometimes my very insightful daughter (pretty sure she is an INFJ like her ole’ mom) looks at me with THESE EYES and I am sure she sees right through me.  Like she knows I am flawed, knows I am weak, knows I am floundering a bit here and there.

It gets even more complicated in the Church where theological interpretations of how far a woman should lean in, or if she should lean in at all, varies substantially between congregations and individuals. When I walked into the room to lead that prayer training, I knew it was a mixed bag of beliefs.  What if someone here really thinks I should be away from the table, spectating instead of leading and participating?

But whether a corporation has equal pay and supportive policies for working mothers or not, or whether a church has strict roles for women to play or not; women will doubt themselves.

Women underestimate themselves.

Women don’t put their hands up.

Women sit back from the  table.

And even though, as I just mentioned, The Church is a mixed bag of beliefs on women (and that will always be the case, I’m learning to live with it*), I am thankful that I can approach ANY job – whether it is as a mother or a minister or a teacher or a CEO – not as a fraud, but as called in Christ.  Because in Christ I realize that I am made to have an impact, I am made to have influence.  And it is as real and genuine as can be.

I may need some pep talks along the way but I don’t need to “Fake it Till I Make It” – whether I be at home nurturing, up front speaking or if I ever find myself in a cubicle (please Lord don’t ever put me in a cubicle!).

I need to remind myself of that, especially when I read a chapter like this.   I need to remind myself that things are different with God.  Things are possible with God.  The Holy Spirit works the Fraud out of us.

When I walk into that meeting, or my child’s bedroom, or a conversation that feels over my head or a job interview or heck even the kitchen – I want to survey the people present and survey the work to be done and be ready to love and engage in absolute fullness.  I want to pick a good chair to sit in, use my voice and offer my hands – fully dependent upon God and therefor fully able to lean in.

I don’t have to underestimate or overestimate.  I can appropriately esteem my own abilities based on the fact that I am made in the image of a Great God, and full of His Spirit and full of Purpose.  This is a good truth women (and men!), whether working in the secular world or ministry world or simply changin’ diapers at home.

Now let’s all take our seat at the table!**



*I respect lots of people who have different views of women, I’m obviously not talking about those that allow or perpetuate spiritual, physical and emotional abuse of women.  Just to clarify.

**Or, as Sarah Bessey puts it, hack that conference table into pieces for a great bonfire, and then dance around it!)