Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg In Vogue: What Does Success Mean For Women In The Internet Biz?

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandber is apparently one of the May Vogue’s “great American women.”

Coming on the heels (in this case, stilettos) of my recent post about women in technology – and the vibrant discussion that followed on Twitter – I’ve got some mixed feelings about the article.

I perused the full text on Vogue, and was not surprised to see Sandberg receive pretty much the same treatment Glamour gave my idol Marissa Meyer last year. Namely, the glowing praise of her ability to balance a thriving career, a vibrant social life, a loving relationship and – inexplicably – a daily phone call to her friend during said friend’s entire nine months of pregnancy. Apparently, the woman likes to multi-task. And, she makes a lot of lists.

Of course, as with most things involving the way women in tech are portrayed, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I love that there are woman like Sandberg and Mayer, who seem to have it all, and who I can admire from afar for that. And, I love that publications like Vogue and Glamour are helping to bring those women the kind of visibility we need to get more young women excited about tech – and to get tech excited about an influx of more young women.

However, as a high-ranking woman at a tech startup, I can tell you for a fact that you could be the world’s best multi-tasker. It’s still gonna be physically impossible to also always fit in being the world’s best friend and lover too. At least not all the time. So, unless these women have magically cracked the code to 28 hour days, I doubt they really do have it all as well balanced as they’re being made to look like they do. And that should be okay too. And not just okay, but at least acknowledged every once in a while as well.

The social web is one of the few industries that is literally 24/7, 365 days a year. The internet never turns it’s lights off, shuts the doors and takes a vacation. To succeed at the top of the social media sphere, you have to be on call and on your game pretty much all day every day. It’s not a lifestyle that lends itself well to balancing your work and your life. And, the most successful social mediaites are usually the ones who let work win.

That’s why the archetypal social media startup success story is always some guy who lives, works and sleeps at his computer – he’s the one with the razor focus on work, and the crappy social life to show for it. Which is fine, because he happily sacrificied that social life for the mega-millions he’s gonna make when he sells his site to Google.

But, for some reason, the archetypal social media success story for women is shaping up to be this superhero who balances her Blackberry and best friends and boyfriend, and still finds time to cultivate fulfilling hobbies and collect cupcake recipes.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t want to be superwoman (or Wonder Woman, since she had all the cool accessories anyway). But, I also don’t like the fact that this feels like yet another double standard.

So yeah, I love having successful women in technology to admire and aspire to. And I love that mainstream magazines are making more of an effort to feature those woman in all their fashionable glory. But, I’m still wary of precisely how these women – and specifically, what constitutes their ‘success’ – are being portrayed.

Which means I’m still taking that Vogue article with a big ol’ grain of salt. But just one grain – I do still want to be able to fit into that gorgeous dress SJP’s rocking on the cover.

4 thoughts on “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg In Vogue: What Does Success Mean For Women In The Internet Biz?

  1. To my amazing daughter Mollie:

    Remember why — when you were a toddler in a high chair — I fed you peas for breakfast and we had fun counting them and playing with them? I was teaching you to decide for yourself what your choices in life will be. I was teaching you that any activity, any moment you’re in can be made fun.

    Don’t believe most of what you read about super-successful women (or men). Do the best you can and give yourself credit for your efforts, know what’s good enough and then move on, savor the moment, make your choices thoughtful, healthy, and honest and your life will balance itself out.

    Love you,

  2. Pingback: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg In Vogue: What Does Success Mean For … | tech-gals.com


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