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Emma Plumb is passionate about changing the way that work gets done. She started this website with the goal of getting a wider group of people talking about work and what we can all do to improve it.

9 Responses

  1. Male Matters at | | Reply

    Re: “Perhaps women who lean out do so not because they are insecure or afraid of asserting themselves, but because taking care of their own families’ needs becomes far more appealing than sticking around in a workplace that has so little to offer.”

    Nope. It’s because women, far more often than men, have a spouse who can and will support them when they leave to take care of their families’ needs. The woman who is single or married to a low-earning man can’t leave the workplace.

    In sum, husbands, when able, give their wives three options:

    1. work full-time
    2. work part-time
    3. stay at home full-time

    In contrast, wives, even if themselves successful, offer their husbands these three options:

    1. work full-time
    2. work full-time
    3. work full-time with overtime.

    Virtually no one, especially in the feminist community, considers the influence on women’s job choices of husbands’ generally unrequited offering of these options. That’s why feminists and the liberal media can’t find a solution to the “problem” of the gender wage gap.

    I explain it in depth in “The Doctrinaire Institute for Women’s Policy Research: A Comprehensive Look at Gender Equality”

  2. Erin Cadwalader at | | Reply


    Thanks for sharing the link to your story and thanks for linking to mine. I couldn’t agree more and I think you very clearly articulate why Sheryl’s story and experience is still unique in many ways. I am glad that it has gotten more of a dialouge flowing on this topic but we still have a long ways to go in making a case for why it is more complicated than just “leaning in.” Perfect example: I was at a think tank briefing today where 4 out of 5 panelists (2 men, 2 women) said there is a wage gap simply because women just want to have babies and don’t work as hard. I look forward to reading more on this site!

  3. heddy nam at | | Reply

    Emma, thanks for a great post. Thank you for sharing your personal story and providing this analysis. You captured my thoughts & sentiments exactly and the ones that many of my feminist friends (both female friends and male allies) have been discussing since Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” and her ideas have been getting so much coverage. In general, I find it obnoxious when someone at the top is saying “this is the way to do it, I did it, so if you don’t do it – you have no one except yourself to blame”. I have nothing against her personally, I find that her ideas are insidious because they going to make more girls and women insecure as they try to navigate the world and find their place in it. I don’t think that was her intention at all.

    As a woman leader, I wish she’d lift up the barriers to girls’ and women’s participation and rise to leadership and deconstruct them for the world to understand so that we can be making cultural and systemic changes while encouraging women to be the best they can be. For example, research shows that women leaders are judged by their outward appearance far more. If a woman wears make-up, she’s more likely to be taken seriously at the workplace. Shouldn’t we be asking questions like – is that fair? Also, a lot of comments about performance at the workplace are gendered – such as a woman employee who’s not in a leadership position speaking up being considered bossy and out of her place while a man doing that shows leadership potential and gets promoted. Shouldn’t we be talking about how we can address this among the current pool of supervisors and Human Resource professionals? Not just telling young women to cut through all this BS on their own?

    Also, I don’t think women should be defined by whether they “lean in” or “lean out” of the workplace for purposes of career advancement. Plenty of women find fulfillment in a balanced life and they’re not trying to get to senior manager level of a large corporation. Others find that while career is a huge priority, looking for fulfillment rather than a job title and a visible position of “leadership” is more important than being in the shoes of someone like Sandberg. I don’t think these are excuses.

    All in all, I think we should support great talent (regardless of race, gender, etc.) rising to the top in as equitable a manner as possible given current societal limitations. We all need to work together to make that a reality. I don’t think we should judge individual women for their choices, and start defining “leadership” differently.

    As a Barnard graduate, I recall almost on a daily basis what Barbara Ehrenreich told our graduating class at commencement. She advised us to not to act like “one of the boys” but to bring our own unique feminine perspective to the workplace and navigate it as we feel comfortable (while still challenging ourselves). She believed the workplace – whether in the army or a corporation or whereever – needed to be desperately changed, and she thought women’s participation would be one vehicle for making the workplace more humane and thoughtful. Her phrase “don’t assimilate, infiltrate” has stuck with me in the 9 years since I’ve graduated. That’s been my guiding compass – to bring myself fully into the workplace and fighting for recognition and the support I deserve, not success at the cost of re-wiring my own brain and behavior to fit in.

  4. Sonia Whayman at | | Reply

    good article – hope it makes people think about this and help find a solution to a more balanced life for everyone I am reading “Slow Money”, right now and think you might like it.
    well done.

    1. Emma Plumb at | | Reply

      Thanks Sonia, and thanks for the book suggestion, I will check it out!

  5. Tenning Maa at | | Reply

    You’ve nailed it right on the nose Ems! I learned to “lean out” a long time ago to be available to Lian as much as possible while still being the breadwinner. In some ways I think it’s also important to evaluate the role that work plays in your life. I decided long ago that it was not going to be my source of fulfillment nor a way for my lifelong passions to play out. It just has to be good enough and that’s exactly what my work is to me. I wonder if it is the American culture that perpetuates the idea that we must find what we will love to do as this is part of the “American dream.” I’m not sure I’ve observed the same conflicts between work/life in other countries. What do you think?

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