You would think we would admire and respect women who ascend to the top of the corporate ladder. Women have been trying to shatter the glass ceiling for decades. Some argue they have succeeded. Yet in recent weeks women who should be role models have been turned into pariahs.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, industry titans running multi-billion dollar companies, have been crucified in the media as of late. For anyone who is late to the hate-party, Mrs. Mayer has been ridiculed for putting an end to allowing staff to work from home, while Mrs. Sandberg has offended women everywhere by encouraging them to work hard to overcome gender bias.
Let’s start with Mrs. Mayer. Mothers who worked from home while caring for their kid(s) now must pay travel expenses and the cost of daycare. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mayer built a private daycare next to her office for her child.
Some people point to studies of comparative companies that show that allowing employees to work from home is just as profitable, if not more so. Others say it was necessary to reign in a workforce that is not producing; the company has been mired in mediocrity recently. Also, those who had to show up might have resented the fact that some coworkers were given such a privilege.
Whether this was a good or bad business decision is debatable, but one thing is clear: it was a business decision. It has inconvenienced female employees who worked from home, but the decision was certainly not made to spite women.
Companies should be responsible for the well being of their employees. However, the option to work from home is not an employee’s right. It is a privilege.
Mrs. Sandberg, whose recent bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, asserts that there is an ambition gap between males and females. The onus is on women to unite, work hard, and earn their spot at the top. Some people argue this is letting men off the hook.
Maybe she is letting men off the hook, but who cares? Here is a woman who has worked hard and made it to a position generally held by men. Some profits from her book go to leanin.org, a community designed to encourage women to realize their ambitions. This is a story deserving of positive coverage, not the ugly negativity that has prevailed.
Complaining that her efforts are misguided is like chiding someone for donating to a heart and stroke charity because cancer is the more lethal problem. We should be celebrating her efforts.
We are quick to attack Mrs. Sandberg and Mrs. Mayer because they are of a different ilk. They are extremely wealthy in an age when wealthy people are inherently disliked by the masses. The irresponsible behavior of government, banks, and large corporations has cultivated this attitude.
There are many people to be suspicious of and many rich people deserve our reproaches. However, let’s not forget that there are just as many who deserve our respect and admiration for the hard work they put in to get there. Mrs. Sandberg and Mrs. Mayer — and successful women everywhere — will continue to make controversial decisions. We should take a step back from our instinct to be critical and take time to celebrate these successful women for defying the odds.