Over the weekend I was reading a story in the New York Times about Sheryl Sandberg, she of Facebook fame, Silicon Valley royalty, and—soon—more than a billion dollars. The article was about how Sandberg is much more than Facebook’s COO; she has become a role model for women everywhere, in the world of technology and beyond. She has two young children and a working husband and has made it her mission to let women know that they can balance career and family; they can ask for what they want; they can be warm and winning and still boss people around.
By all accounts, Sheryl Sandberg is very smart and really likable, not to mention kind and sensible. I have heard her speak and found her not only an excellent public speaker but someone who wisely uses her platform to make women feel good about themselves and try to make the world a better place. I seem to agree with just about everything she espouses and represents.
So why did this article bug me so much?
It has nothing to do with Sandberg, or Facebook, or Silicon Valley or billionaires. What bugs me is this: I am still waiting for the day when I read a story about a prominent/successful/rich man and the message of the story is “He is such a great role model for other men.” As far as I can tell—and I read a lot; after all, I read for a living—that article has never been written. Oh, sure, we are constantly reading articles about internationally famous men in business. And they seem to follow one of three themes:
1. He is a genius.
2. He sees the future.
3. He is a bully, but so successful that we are willing to overlook that.
Am I being ridiculously reductive? Perhaps. But here’s the article I want to read: He is a titan of business and an excellent father. He leaves work early for his daughter’s soccer games and wants everyone who works for him to do the same for their children. He makes an excellent spinach lasagna. He hosts monthly catered dinners at his house, with his wife and young children mingling with his business colleagues, to demonstrate that balancing his personal and professional lives is extremely important to him, and should be to you too. He knows that, in an ideal world, you should not have to choose between a successful career and a happy family, and uses his frequent public appearances to promote that message. And he’s determined to live a life that will serve as a model for generations of young men to come.
Please, if you have ever read such a thing, let me know. Until I find it, I’m just going to keep feeling sort of mad.