At the same time, life happens -- children get sick, parents die, etc. I try to deal with such uncertainty with flexibility and understanding. One of my best clerks became pregnant and gave birth while clerking. But she did not surprise me with the pregnancy news or demand a lighter workload. Rather, together, and with her co-clerks, we found a way to welcome the baby and postpone some of her duties for a time. If a woman has a history of leaning in and excellence, as she did, I think an employer will often work to accommodate her.
Of course, accommodation is not always possible and even, if possible, some employers will not be flexible. Although anti-discrimination laws are important, they do not reach much subtle adverse employment action. That is not fair, but life is full of unfairness. Differences in intelligence, beauty, kindness, health, wealth and luck abound. Leaning in, although not fool proof or without cost, seems to me one of the best ways to counter those inequities.
--Diana Gribbon Motz,
federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
The offer to pen these 200 words came with the encouragement of the Style editor — “Short is good. Quick is key!” Those words define the life of most working mothers I know — keeping to the essential, prioritizing the critical, ensuring required turnaround. In my varied experience — in a Fortune 50 corporation, in the foundation world, and now in the social sector — I have found engaging all employees in high performance doesn’t follow a prescription — it’s different on every project, it’s different in every workplace. The key for great leaders is to ensure that everyone around them is willing to be fierce for the mission, hold high expectations of themselves and their peers, be open to the frank conversations that are necessary for growth and go out of your way to recognize great performance. The rest has to be unique to the setting and the circumstances and the team. The good news is we’re talking. Now, off to the next challenge! (With 35 words to spare.)
— Patty Stonesifer,
incoming chief executive,
Sheryl Sandberg is right. We need to change the culture and change policy.
I ran policy on a presidential campaign with two young children because I worked for a female boss who offered me workplace flexibility — that boss was Hillary Clinton. I changed my son’s diapers during morning conference calls with the most senior campaign leaders on the line. I got home for dinner, put my kids to bed, and then worked late into the night. The most critical ingredients for allowing women to rise to leadership is a culture that is tolerant of flexibility and policies that reinforce the idea that if you’re getting the job done, it doesn’t matter if you’re out of the office when you need to be there for your family.
Because of workplace flexibility, I had the opportunity to “lean in,” and I now sit in a leadership position — a role that not only means I can decide the workplace policies of my own organization but one that also provides me a seat at the table as Washington debates the larger structural changes our nation can take to achieve equal opportunity through pro-family policies and to empower more women into leadership roles.
— Neera Tanden,
president and chief executive
of the Center for American
Got your own opinions? Share them at washingtonpost.com/style.