Sheryl Sandberg realizes that ‘Lean In’ ignored single moms

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has just written her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. She co-authored the book with psychologist Adam Grant. The book is a result of her experiences with grief after suddenly losing her husband, David Goldberg, in 2015. While writing this book, Sheryl revisited her prior best seller Lean In, that sparked a feminist movement. An eye-opening moment for Sheryl occurred when she revisited the chapter from Lean In, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” and she realized this did not apply to single mothers.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Sandberg describes how her husband Dave Goldberg’s unexpected death created a deafening crash of grief that reverberated throughout her family. In May 2015, they were on vacation in Mexico when she found him dead on the gym floor — it was later determined the 47-year-old died of cardiac arrhythmia.

While the loss led to a new book, it also caused Sandberg to reflect on her previous work, Lean In. In it, she used research and personal anecdotes to encourage women to aspire to top positions. She explains that it was Goldberg’s dedication as a husband and father that inspired the chapter, “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.”

“As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home,” she wrote in Lean In. “I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical.”

“I realize now how hard that [chapter] must have been to read if you were a single mom,” she says. “I didn’t get it.”

Sandberg explains that her new journey as a single mom, and experiencing the death of her spouse, impacted her decision to expand bereavement leave at Facebook.

“I’ve definitely learned how hard it can be to lean in when you’re struggling at home,” she says. “But I deeply believe — maybe even more — in the importance of female leadership.”

[From People]

I like Sheryl. I respect her business savvy. She’s funny. She doesn’t just spout her ideology but attempts to spell out steps to get there. I appreciate that she learns from her experiences and not only passes those lessons on but where they came from. But let’s be perfectly honest, Lean In left a lot of women out, not just single mothers. Even now, Sheryl is still picking and choosing her feminism as it benefits her. She never really did speak about why she sat out the Women’s March and “remains hopeful” about #45, who has promised to dismantle family leave and women’s health rights as much as Congress will allow. When pressed about her silence, Sheryl reiterates that Lean In remains non-partisan to be the most beneficial in each community. Then why did she come out so strongly on the Immigration Ban? Sheryl works for a company that not only adopted an extraordinary family leave policy but has unprecedented bereavement leave as well. So she doesn’t have to worry about those federally protected bills. But H-1B visas factor very much into her work force.

I’m interested in Option B. Like she did with Lean In, Sheryl established a non-profit organization for Option B as well. From what I have read, David Goldberg was a very well-liked man and Sheryl adored him. I really felt for Sheryl reading how hard it was for her to cope with his loss. I have *knocks wood* been spared true grief thus far but I appreciate the advice she gives on how to help others who are grieving. For example, “don’t ask the bereaved how they are. Instead ask them how they are that day.” I could totally see how that would make a difference. The name for the book, btw, comes from family friend Phil Deutch at whose birthday celebration David died. Deutch suggested Sheryl designate a stand in dad for father-child events at the kid’s school following David’s death. Sheryl declined, saying it just wouldn’t be the same, to which Deutch replied, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the sh*t out of Option B.” I’m being sincere when I say that this is the kind of advice I can use in times of trouble. I don’t do well with lament. Finding solutions, no matter how second-rate, is the one thing that propels me forward when life is kicking me in the teeth. Lean In may not have applied to me but it sounds like Option B might.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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31 Responses to “Sheryl Sandberg realizes that ‘Lean In’ ignored single moms”

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  1. Casey says:

    Eh, I’m sure she’s a nice lady, but to me, she’s just another rich, white (and mostly clueless) lady spouting nonsense. None of this speaks to me and millions of other women (like the ones who clean her bathroom every day).

  2. TQB says:

    It is horrible, horrible, terrible, that Sandberg had to learn these lessons in such a traumatic and sad way. I do believe it is making her a better, more complete (although still incomplete) voice for women in corporate America, simply because her eyes were opened to some of the many ways her experience was not universal or applicable to many women. I would hope she could translate her awakening to also realize that not everyone works for a corporation as open-minded as Facebook. When I attempted to apply some of the lessons of Lean In – being assertive, speaking out, making myself the leader of a project – I was promptly scapegoated and fired for a problem that existed long before my tenure.

  3. amp122076 says:

    H1-b visas (not HB-1). A nit but your post is good and accurate gives you credibility!

  4. HeatherAnn says:

    I liked Lean In, and I deeply admire her. She did only speak to a certain audience in that book, but what she said was real and true for that audience. I am a partner in a large law firm, and I can tell you that what she said about female ambitious and the complex dynamics of the business world regarding sex were spot on. I felt so sad for her when she lost her husband, and I again find myself reacting with deep admiration regarding her response. Yes, she is richer and more entitled than most of us, but she is also a true leader and a great feminist.

    • Tata says:

      I am fine with what you wrote, i do not admire her, though, but it is fine if you do. However, the last part – how is she feminist?

      She chooses to be optimistic about working with an ACTUAL RAPIST and sexual assaulter (Trump). Is that leadership? Not really imo. I tend to see it is women taking stands, and not compromising, that actually get things done (see Bill O’Reilly getting fired)

      I resent her lean in statement because it is victim blaming in a way. If you work in a toxic company environment or culture that tolerates bs, there is no amount of leaning in you should do, you should leave. The sad part is the amount of toxicity and moral compromises most c level women I know have had to endure to ‘make it’

      • Ally8 says:

        This. It’s putting the onus on the individual; saying it’s on the individual to do more, not on the organization to do better. In the toxic places I’ve worked, people were knocking themselves out for the company and being squeezed and pressured in return.

        Meanwhile the sloppy staff members were left in peace to check their social media all day. So if anything, leaning in at such organizations gets you treated as a workhorse to be exhausted, and a target. Massive quitting ensued at such places.

        A book on how to avoid corporate dysfunction and dumb, short-sighted management thinking would be more original, but wouldn’t be in the grand tradition of negging women to sell them things.

  5. Valois says:

    I can’t process the fact that four months of paid maternity/paternity leave (in the case of facebook) is considered generous and extraordinary in America. This is so sad.

    • Shirleygail says:

      When my boy was born in 1983 that’s all we got in Canada. It was not enough, no question. I worked with other women to change that because going back to work after a traumatic birth then being returned to hospital for hemorrhaging, still struggling to successfully breastfeed (which ended when my lovely and lazy son figured out just how easy it was eating from a bottle compared to the breast) meant I really didn’t bond with my boy, I was still in the throes of postpartum depression (tho’ didn’t understand at the time), and recovering from the cesarean and secondary operations.

      On a snide note~she is NOT a single mother. She is a widow with children. A widowed mum is quite a different kettle of fish to a single mum. There, I said it.

  6. Jumpingthesnark says:

    I’m sorry for her and her children’s loss. Agree with Casey and Valois. Even as a professional woman in this country i.e. her target audience, I find her perspective alienating. For the vast majority of working women in this country I wouldn’t be surprised if they think she’s living on another planet altogether.

  7. STRIPE says:

    I think sometimes we let perfect get in the way of the good. Did she speak for every woman’s experience? No. But guess what? She’s not every woman. She can only speak from her experience. And frankly it’s not her job to speak for/to everyone. All we can do is try and be better every day, which it sounds like she’s doing.

  8. Eveil says:

    They should put addendums in. Only applicable for white women working for progressive companies.

  9. Jamie42 says:

    I truly empathize with her for the loss of her husband. I lost mine early as well, and those who simply want to dismiss her as white and privileged should try walking a mile in those shoes.

    However, I can’t help but wish she would focus all her energies on Facebook’s role in the last election and in circulating (without any kind of warning) false news from Russian and other hostile sites.

  10. PennyLane says:

    So Sheryl Sandberg still can’t see past the end of her nose. If something hasn’t happened to her personally, she is incapable of understanding it.

    Does Facebook’s expanded bereavement leave apply to people getting divorced? Because the end result is the same – you are alone in the world again, and you need time to create a new life for yourself and your children.

  11. ZombieLove says:

    One person cannot and should not be everything to everybody. Her book spoke a lot of truth and was inspiring. It is not going to reflect every women on the planet. It was her perspective from her life. Take snippets that might be useful in your life or not. I bristled at a section where she shaded the stay-at-home mother who was more involved in school activities and knew all the other kids because that’s me right now. It doesn’t mean the rest of the book is not worthwhile.

  12. poppy says:

    well, at least she learns from her mistakes when they punch her in the gut?
    and out of touch for sure, only contemplating her words and actions and complicity in a situation when it has an actual impact on her.

    good on her for not trying to shirk it when it is obvious.

  13. Millenial says:

    Her book just didn’t appeal to me at all. I’m much more of a “Lean Out” type of person. I like my job, but it’s a job. I love my husband and my son and my friends, and that’s where I’m “leaning in.”

  14. Shannon says:

    I think she may be underestimating the strength of a lot of single moms. We’re very used to seeing things that don’t apply to us because of the assumption you have a husband or partner. I would have just skipped over the chapter as it’s not relevant to my life and forgot about it. We don’t necessarily break down in tears every time that’s pointed out. I personally am not even sure I want a partner until my youngest son is grown – relationships pull focus and I’m trying to avoid that. She wrote from her experience and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

  15. Xtrology says:

    I wrote a blog on her book, and I stick to my statement that Lean In applies to women asking for more. Women are positioned to become stronger than men. We graduate in larger numbers from universities. We’re totally capable of doing their jobs. They have treated us like dirt. But do we need to treat them like dirt back? Do we really want them baking cookies while we trot off with our briefcases to work? Let’s work together. Sheryl has left out more than single mothers. She has left out the other half. Let’s do it the right way — leaving out no one. Let’s all work together, because the other way just doesn’t work at all.

  16. raincoaster says:

    She didn’t spark a feminist movement so much as capitalize off one.

  17. dawnchild says:

    Her perspective doesn’t speak to me (feminist WOC with an excellent education and quality work ethic). I can lean in all I want; I don’t work for FB and they don’t give a s*** about saying no to my raise requests, no matter how deserving it is. That’s the truth, Sheryl. So you can go back to your multi-million podium, and make more money writing useless books.

  18. Rogue Economist says:

    “Lean In” ignored reality for anyone who isn’t white, raised in the upper-middle class and granted a top tier college education, plus grad education.

    Any book that lectures women for not “demanding enough” is woefully out of touch with a society that is stacked against marginalized groups and anyone who lacks supportive resources.