Sheryl Sandberg’s Version of How to “Have It All”

“Really?” the snippy portion of my brain quips. Women just need more ambition to succeed?

I have been a little torqued ever since hearing that comment about ambition in the many blogs and articles lauding Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 commencement speech at Barnard.

I generally agree with a lot of what she has to say and I admire her accomplishments and achievements. I appreciate that she talks about her family and obviously has a passion for discussing work-life balance. I’m sure she’s speaking from her heart and imparting her own personal experience – as all of us should do as we contribute to the work-life dialogue.

However, I felt vindicated recently when reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s fantastic article in 2012 July/August issue of The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All“.

I love that she calls out Sandberg’s comment regarding an “ambition gap” in women, something which still rubs me the wrong way. Her implication being that if you would just try harder and be more committed – it will work. Ms. Slaughter does such a good job at rebutting that, that I have to include it here.

“But I fear that the obstacles that keep women from reaching the top are rather more prosaic than the scope of their ambition […] These “mundane” issues—the need to travel constantly to succeed, the conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, the insistence that work be done in the office—cannot be solved by exhortations to close the ambition gap. I would hope to see commencement speeches that finger America’s social and business policies, rather than women’s level of ambition, in explaining the dearth of women at the top. But changing these policies requires much more than speeches. It means fighting the mundane battles—every day, every year—in individual workplaces, in legislatures, and in the media.”

Everything that I felt but couldn’t quite put into words. Nicely done…Nicely done.

Kirsten Jordan is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @Kirstenkbdb. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.