Yesterday we highlighted Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist niche–creating women leaders to change the workplace. In reaction to the media blitz for her book, another point of view was heard from Wall Street Journal columnist and business entrepreneur, Jody Greenstone Miller, President of her own Business Talent Group. She believes that women need more of the right kind of time management–flexibility, predictability and control in the workplace.
She is also right. But her pointed dismissal of Sandberg’s “misdiagnosis of the problem” as stated in the opening paragraphs of her opinion piece is an unfortunate beginning if she wants to advance her legitimate agenda.
She posits that the real woman’s issue is time. She states this without doubt, with no room for other opinions. Miller appropriately hammers the rigidity of the workplace and sees flexibility as the panacea for what women want and need. She points out that the way work gets done in American corporations (or hospitals, law firms, assembly lines?) can be re-engineered, project by project to adapt to the way women want to work.
Miller has a very legitimate point, and one that I share and have advanced in my posts and in my life. The workplace is unnecessarily rigid. But Miller makes assertions that are not backed up in reality, “Many professional women would happily agree to check email even seven days a week and jump in, if necessary, for intense project stints, so long as over the course of a year, the time devoted to work is more limited. Managers need to be clear about what’s needed: 24/7availability is not the same thing as 24/7 workload.”
Really? As a surgeon with 30+ years of “on-call” life with intense stints, being a slave to “jump in anytime” is no bargain. It is grueling and takes a tremendous, albeit different, toll. Like patients, clients are need people, their projects and their deadlines are hard to predict, and in our fast paced world, time waits for no man……or woman.
Workplace and schedule flexibility, predictability and control are all critical to personal and professional happiness, but they come at too high a price in today’s environment. Miller is correct that the workplace must change, but how?
Her road map of a “project based” view of work has limited applicability. Her four loosely woven, high level concepts, 1. re-think time, 2. break work into projects, 3. availability matters, and, 4 quality is the goal, not quantity, could together be the basis for the book she should write and the program she should propose before leveling such unwarranted criticism at Sandberg about her Lean In program.
Why must any of us women say about another’s monumental efforts, “It’s fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem.” Aren’t these words equally applicable to Miller’s own “cure” for engaging women in the workplace fully, fairly and flexibly–whether as leaders or other valuable contributors? I, for one, would like to hear more from Ms. Miller.
Next up: CEO at Yahoo, Marissa Meyer and her feminist quandary. Stay tuned!