Please Don’t Speak For Me, Sheryl

I almost lost my mind while watching a brief clip of an interview Arianna Huffington did with Sheryl Sandberg...Then, subsequently read her New York Times piece entitled, “Speaking While Female.”... Like, I may have yelled at my computer screen in reaction to the content. In the clip and referenced article, which was embedded in a Huffington Post piece entitled, “Sheryl Sandberg: ‘It’s Still Hard to Speak In a Professional Setting As a Woman,” what I heard her say was, in order for women to feel more comfortable speaking up in Corporate America, everyone OTHER THAN WOMEN has to change. And, since the message I heard is perpetuating the notion that we, as women, are (still) victims, I would like to ask that you, Sheryl, please not speak for me. I don’t feel like a victim. I have never felt like a victim (except for when I actually was one, growing up in my crazy, dysfunctional home.) I was never scared to speak in meetings and never felt ignored. That’s not to say I haven’t been ignored, I just don’t think I took it personally and probably spoke up about it because I think it’s rude.

This is what you said that made me go a little bit crazy...

”Even with all the progress we’ve made, it’s still really hard to speak in a professional setting as a woman. Women face real barriers….As human beings, we are incredibly sensitive to people’s reactions. If you watch someone say something, you see how the person reacts...the person who’s speaking reacts. And, as women, we kind of fall in one of two paths…..either we speak out aggressively and affirmatively and are results focused and then people often think, you know, she’s not nice. I don’t like her. She’s too aggressive. OR, we’re quiet and spoken over. We’re interrupted more, we take more notes in meetings, we sit in the back more and that’s really hurting women’s ability to get to leadership.” And, then she goes on to ask that people start calling on women first “Obamastyle” (as he did when he only called on female reporters in his most recent press conference) so that women get to speak.

For reference, here are the links to the Huffington Post interview and NY Times articles:

HuffPo clip: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/23/sheryl-sandberg-davos_n_6506188.html

NY Times piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/opinion/sunday/speaking-while-female.html

First let me say that, as much as I love Obama, what he did by calling, only on women, was an incredibly calculated, yet effective, PR move. I mean, it created the phrase, “Obamastyle,” for you to use to support your argument. Next, I’d like to ask...

  • Are ‘we’ as human beings all really incredibly sensitive to people’s reactions?
  • If ‘we’ are, why is it so and, what does it cost us as human beings? Maybe just some of us are somewhat sensitive and some, not at all?
  • Could ‘we’ ever include men?
  • Do ‘we’ really only fall into only two paths? Either aggressive or quiet?....That’s it?

Maybe there are some other options?

I believe the message is antiquated and not addressing the real problem at hand, which is a matter of confidence and authenticity…. period. I also believe confidence and authenticity or, the lack there of, is gender neutral.

Confidence and authenticity come from within. Both come with self-examination, self-awareness and self-acceptance. Both come from allowing ourselves to be who we are, not who we THINK we should be. Faking it, overcompensating or throwing in the towel if they are lacking, are unfortunate alternatives and glaringly obvious...even on an unconscious level.

Instead of perpetuating the notion that women are being victimized, how about offering a solution to help them help themselves? Why not have a dialogue about this, and not state it’s everyone else’s problem to fix? So, instead of speaking FOR women in a way that makes them seem like damsels in distress, why not ask: 

  • Why do some women feel this way?
  • Why use the word aggressive, not assertive?
  • Do you, Sheryl, feel uncomfortable when you speak up?
  • Did you once, but don’t anymore? And, if not, what changed? This could be helpful for women to know.
  • What are ALL of the variables that exist in these male/female scenarios? Is it not possible that, as with some men, not all questions or talking points made by all women are good points? For example, some people speak up in groups because they want attention, not because they have something relevant to say. Women AND men.
  • Why is being “liked” even an issue? It’s not for most men. (Remember that line from A League of Their Own about no crying in baseball?)
  • Is it possible that women’s feelings of self-consciousness come across when they speak up, thus making them less engaging? This must also happen when men speak too, no?
  • Do women feel the need to overcompensate for their lack of confidence by being aggressive? Is it like the 2015 equivalent to wearing shoulder pads, as women did in the 80s to appear, in physique, more like men?

And, with regard to all of these rude men…

  • Would it not be beneficial to ask them why they think it’s ok to speak over a woman when she starts to speak? There could be an overcompensation (confidence issue) there too.

In your book, you asked women to lean in. Did you ask women to ask themselves why they don’t? In your NY Times piece, you cited studies that support your argument but, what about studies on the importance and effectiveness of confidence?

I am entirely for equality, across the board, and for getting rid of discrimination. I absolutely believe that the equal pay issue needs to be resolved. However, I don’t think attaching women’s feelings of inadequacies and self-judgment helps this issue. In fact, I believe it is harmful in that it promotes the idea that it is not in our (women’s) power to help ourselves. Everyone is scared of something. Everyone struggles with limiting beliefs about themselves and life in general. Why not figure out a way to bring these internal struggles to light? Don’t just lean in, start to work from within.


Danielle Gibson works with people who want to "speak up." That is, they want to have the ability to be more direct/straight forward. She believes confidence, authenticity, good communication skills and paying attention to one's intuition are essential components. And, they serve as some important focal points in her coaching practice. To contact Danielle, please email: danielle.gibson@gmail.com

Smart Career Women Can Have Sustainable Relationships

Hitting the five zero a few years back was overshadowed by a hectic work schedule which left little time for celebration. If I’m brutally honest though, with 2 marriages and single motherhood on my resume, it felt more like my life was in desperate need of an overhaul to break this unhealthy cycle. How could I get on the path to achieve real and sustained happiness in my personal relationships? 

The reality is, unfortunately, that I am just one of thousands in this situation across America. We grew up in households with parents who were ill-equipped to teach us how to form relationships and what our roles should be; they themselves muddled through with limited input from their own parents. This has resulted in a generation of co-dependent women who seem to attract imbalanced relationships, without the means or skills to dig themselves out of this dilemma.

What is really going on? 

Today’s intelligent and business-savvy women are high in “book smarts” which overcompensates for their lack of EQ (emotional intelligence quotient). In literal terms, their hearts become a magnet for the wrong type of relationship.

Michael Noer created a furor back in 2006 with his article in Forbes Magazine which suggested that men should not consider career women as marriage material. His rationale came from studies which concluded that professional women had a higher propensity to cheat and/or get divorced, and were less likely to want children. This theory was further fuelled by the American Journal of Marriage and Family, whose studies demonstrated a higher divorce risk where wives were the main bread winners. 

There is a wealth of evidence which supports the notion that successful women are incapable of sustaining meaningful relationships for a variety of reasons; these include being too controlling, lack of tolerance for a less successful partner, and the resentment from their partners for their financial success. Surely this then begs the question why is this happening and how can we stop it? 

Pride comes before a fall 

Dr. Robert Holden, author of Success Intelligence, is at the cutting edge of psychological relationship research and offers the following explanation: "To have a successful relationship, you have to have a developed EQ which is emotional empathy and a respect for each other's feelings. Women are often so headstrong that they override what their heart is feeling. Without the engagement of the head and the heart, relationships are not a safe place to be, but the smart woman is headstrong enough to tell herself that she will be able to make this work." Women have become embarrassed to admit that they take the lead in their relationships, and subsequently how this power and control has caused major damage to their relationships.  

In other words, we fall at the first hurdle because we’ve been conditioned to bypass our intuition and it gets us into trouble.  Case in point, my intuition ringing warning bells that landed me in ER for a severe panic attack before my wedding ten years ago to my second ex, only to realize with clarity that I had married the wrong man.  At the time, I kind of knew that the marriage was doomed but convinced myself that with our religious upbringings, "I" could make it work. 

How to change your Modus Operandi 

What energy vibe are you leading with when you meet a guy? 

* Do you find the signals you give are at complete odds to what you are feeling?

* I don't want you to meet my children?

* I'm seeing other men so I don't want you to get too close?

* I'm a financially self-sufficient woman who has her kids, career and only needs a man for sex? 

These vibes can be incredibly emasculating. When men respond by being detached, our emotional side kicks in and we wonder - why isn't he falling in love with me?

Let's be honest, most of us sensible girls aren’t very happy. Often we are the real victims because we just accept that any romantic situation is OK, when in reality it's not.  We have gotten used to wearing this very confident façade which is really to disguise our fear of not being in control and lack of self-acceptance. Intimacy involves a higher potential for rejection and the risk of being hurt and dealing with painful and scary situations. So, we become relationship jumpers because "there was no love there and he didn't stimulate me", "we rushed into it too quickly without knowing each other", or "he was my rebound guy". 

Getting to happy 

What advice can I give to successful career women who are often (secretly) unhappy and unsuccessful in love?   

·         Be willing to admit when you've got it wrong

·         Don't be too quick to lead with your body or looks

·         A sense of humor or succession of compliments is not a fair exchange for you or your money

·         Leave your dominance and competitiveness in the office

·         Don't love carelessly or unconsciously

·         Stop playing the victim role. Be open to embracing the joy of being a woman and having a rewarding career.

Finally, work on developing your EQ. Learn to have emotional strength that is about surrender, openness and a willingness to let go. This is absolutely essential because it determines the quality of your relationships with others. It is unreasonable and unhealthy to expect other people to love you more than you love yourself.

For too long, women like me and others have failed to recognize while building our careers that integrating the emotional and intuitive side of life is just as important. Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, the time is now to educate our young women to wake up -- use your head and intuition. Test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, and not some sentimental gush. 

Ask for help 

Fast forward to the present day and we need to honestly evaluate whether Mike’s predictions were mere ramblings or an accurate sign of things to come. Look at your circle of strong sisters, are they in happy and healthy relationships or just applying an extra coat of lipstick and giving the impression that they are “in control”?

Why wait until your next breakup or your power and control triggers surface before making a change? If you hear another “it’s complicated” excuse from a friend, have the tough conversation and have her confront her fears. In order to have a healthy relationship, you must put in the necessary effort to change your attitude about what you are really looking for and prepared to give in return. If you’re feeling lost and really don’t know where to start, stay tuned for some practical steps to gain clarity on getting to happy.

In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with any relationship questions or concerns that you may have – debrah@just4mygirls.com

Debrah Mathis, PC, ELI-MP is a highly sought-after Business, Life and Career Coach in Dallas, TX. My mission is to develop individuals, couples & families with the tools & skills needed for better work-life integration in this new economy. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Follow @EngagetoSuccess, and LIKE Engage to Success Facebook Group page.


Source: www.EngagetoSuccess.com