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Where Is Sheryl Sandberg's Advice for Women in Politics?

Posted: 04/24/2013 12:45 pm

Like many other 30-something women, I've started reading the latest treaty for the working gal, Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. I'm now among the ranks of those who admire Sandberg's ability to leave the office on time and her gutsiness in contributing to a much-needed discussion on how North American's can better balance work and life so both men and women are better equipped to take on leadership roles if they want to.

One area where this discussion is sorely needed is politics, an arena that Sandberg -- an advisor to former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers -- largely ignores in her book. This is a pity, as it will be increasingly difficult to attract good people to the profession if we can't offer some semblance of work-life balance.

My colleague Kendall Anderson, a mother of young children and an outsider to politics, was baffled to learn, while writing a report on Parliament, on how tough a life it is for people with kids. To quote her:

When we were writing "Lost in Translation or Just Lost?" I realized that the House sat until 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. Like many parents, I'm obsessed with making sure I have enough quality time with my kids every day -- before they go to bed at 7:30. My first thought on seeing the daily schedule was: "What about the family dinner? What about story hour?" (For those not parenting in recent years, the "family dinner" has recently been touted as the cure -- all to any problems with your children from asthma to drug addiction.)

Another fact that really hit home for me: MPs are only in Ottawa half the year, so they have to decide whether to leave their family at home in the riding for half the year, or drag them to Ottawa and leave them alone in Ottawa half the year while they visit the riding. And since there are limits to how much MPs can bring their families back and forth -- either formal limits or limits based on Canadians' perceptions of the supposed "perks" of being an MP -- most MPs opt to leave their partners and kids at home. All I could think about was the poor partner at home, enduring the "witching hour" alone -- 135 days of the year. Not to mention the guilt the MP mom or dad would have about being away so much.

MPs are well aware of this problem. In fact, one I spoke to said the best time to go into politics is when your kids are grown up and don't need you anymore.

While that may very well be true, politics, to be relevant and responsive to the public, should ideally be designed to facilitate the participation of a diverse set of citizens. In a series of exit interviews some colleagues and I did with 65 former MPs, work-life balance did come up, and in a paper I co-wrote with Royce Koop and James Farney, here are a few of the solutions they offered up:

1. Move to shorter, more intense parliamentary sessions. This would lessen the travel demands and allow MPs to go home for longer weekends. Alternatively, change regular sitting hours from 9 to 5, and eliminate evening sitting hours except in emergencies. This would allow them to go home for dinner -- or connect with their families and friends online, or even interact with a fellow MP outside the pressures of the House.

2. Offer reliable childcare. Nearby and inexpensive childcare would help encourage younger MPs to run for office, especially women. Since we're only at 23% women in the House, we are grossly underrepresenting our population.

3. Adjust constituent expectations. We constituents need to realize that MPs are spread pretty thin. An MP's staff should be seen as a representative of the MP, not the MP shirking his/her responsibilities. Seeing an MP in the flesh -- though it'll help them come election time -- should not be the all-important goal. The authors advise that MPs need more staff support, and we all need a smoother running bureaucracy to "allow the MP to spend more time focused on substantive representation rather than acting as a guide through our bureaucracy."

While no one enters politics for the lifestyle, some of the above might help aspiring politicians "lean in" just a little more.

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  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

    Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

  • A New Kind Of Cover Girl

    In March 2013, Sheryl released her new book, “Lean In,” and it instantly shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list -- and landed her on the cover of Time magazine.

  • Advocating For Women In The Workplace

    Sheryl had never spoken about women’s issues in public before her TED talk on “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” and she was advised against it by her peers, who claimed that it would draw attention to the fact that she is a woman. Sheryl laughed and said, “I think they know I’m a women.” The video of her TED talk instantly went viral. Overnight, Sheryl established herself as a leading advocate for women in the workplace.

  • Born To Lead

    The oldest of three children, Sheryl possessed undeniable leadership skills from an early age. But while young boys are often encouraged to lead, Sheryl was regularly referred to as “bossy.” Part of her mission today is to teach parents to encourage their young daughters to develop their leadership skills, instead of dismissing them as overly aggressive.

  • Standing In Her Own Way

    For her whole early life, Sheryl felt that she needed to hold herself back from being too successful or appearing too smart. In high school, she was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by her peers, but was embarrassed by the recognition. She asked a friend on the yearbook staff to remove that title from her name.

  • Welcome To Silicon Valley

    After serving as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury Department, Sheryl made her way to Silicon Valley, where she accepted a position as Vice President of Google’s Global Online Sales & Operations. At the time, Google was a small start-up, but during her stint with the company, it became an unprecedented success.

  • A Fateful Meeting

    Sheryl met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a Christmas party held by Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig in late 2007. Although he wasn’t actively looking for a new COO for Facebook, Mark knew that Sheryl would be perfect for the job. After several months of becoming acquainted with one another, Sheryl left her post at Google to become Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer.

  • Marriage As A Real Partnership

    In various interviews, Sheryl has stressed to women the importance of choosing a partner who supports their career and agrees to assist with housework and childcare. Her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, possesses these qualities, which allows the pair to operate as a team.

  • A Well-Educated Woman

    A graduate of Harvard College, Sheryl earned her A.B. in economics and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. In May 2011, she spoke at the commencement ceremony at Barnard College about achieving equality in the workplace and seeking ways to find work/life balance.

  • Economy Whiz

    Sheryl is no stranger to economics. At Harvard, she met mentor Larry Summers, who later recruited her to serve as his research assistant at the World Bank. Here she appears on stage alongside Danielle Gray, deputy director of the National Economic Council; Mari Pangestu, Indonesia's trade minister; and moderator Chris Jansing at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in September 2011.

  • Working For The President

    After a stint as a business consultant, Sheryl served as the Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. Here, she joins the former president and Katie Couric at the Women for Women International Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in November 2011.

  • Chosen By The Commander In Chief

    President Obama listens intently to Sheryl’s advice during a meeting of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The council was established to promote growth in American business and equip American workers with the skills they need to succeed.

  • Women Who Have Leaned In

    Arianna Huffington has been a strong supporter of Sheryl’s “Lean In” message, which calls for women to eliminate self-doubt and focus on their personal well-being. Here, Sheryl joins Arianna at the 2011 Matrix Awards, which honor women in communications and the arts.

  • An Evening At The White House

    Who has Sheryl referred to as her biggest personal role model? Her mother, of course! Here, she escorts her mom, Adele Sandberg, to the White House for the State Dinner for South Korea in October 2011.

  • Discussing New Marketing Tools

    In Sheryl’s current position at Facebook, she oversees business operations, which includes everything from marketing and sales to public policy and human resources. Here Sheryl speaks to an audience of marketing professionals at a Facebook event in February 2012.

  • Weighing In At The World Economic Forum

    Now a highly sought-after speaker on the world stage, Sheryl participated in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January 2013.

  • Powerful Women Team Up

    Sheryl spoke about women in business with Chelsea Clinton as part of the promotion for her new book, “Lean In” in March 2013.

  • Post 50 Female Legends And Icons

    Post 50 Female Legends And Icons

  • The Disney Princess

    <strong>Who:</strong> Ann Sweeney (53) <strong>Why:</strong> In a world where young girls dream of being like Cinderella, Snow White, and Jasmine -- we can't help but think how cool it is that there's a new Disney princess to look up to: Ann Sweeney. As the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney-ABC Television Group, she is a woman in a predominately male business. Sweeney uses this platform to work in organizations such as Cable Positive - a group of CEOs that work with the media's resources in the fight against AIDS. Photo: Getty

  • The Fashion Icon

    <strong>Who:</strong> Grace Coddington (70) <strong>Why:</strong> The Creative Director for U.S. <em>Vogue</em> stole the show in the 2009 documentary "The September Issue" where she fearlessly goes head to head with <a href="http://www.themortonreport.com/celebrity/notables/is-vogue-editor-in-chief-anna-wintour-shopping-memoir/" target="_hplink">"ice-queen"</a> Anna Wintour. It goes without saying, her trademark hair is pretty amazing, too. Photo: Getty

  • The Philanthropist

    <strong>Who:</strong> Wallis Annenberg (72) <strong>Why:</strong> She's not your average philanthropic socialite! The heiress publisher-turned-public benefactor donates her time and money to making cities like Los Angeles well rounded and beautiful. Bob Colacello's portrait of Miss Annenberg for <em><a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/style/features/2009/10/wallis-annenberg200910" target="_hplink">Vanity Fair</a></em> is one of our favorites. Photo: Getty

  • The California Girl

    <strong>Who:</strong> Dianne Feinstein (78) <strong>Why:</strong> In many ways, it seems the San-Francisco born Feinstein has been a heavy-hitter since the day she was born. The former (and first-female) San Francisco Mayor is a California girl thru-and-thru who has survived divorce, death, and even representing the Democrats in the Senate. Photo: Getty

  • The Empowerer

    Who: Oprah Winfrey (57) Why: Oh Oprah, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways... besides being "arguably the world's most powerful woman," according to <em><a href="http://entertainment.time.com/" target="_hplink">TIME</a></em>, Oprah has a philanthropic compulsion to match her monetary earnings. Through her <a href="http://www.oprah.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Angel Network</a> and <a href="http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Oprah-Winfrey-Leadership-Academy-for-Girls" target="_hplink">Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy</a>, she has supported women's shelters, built youth centers and homes, created academic scholarships and established more than 50 schools around the world. Photo: Getty

  • The Zen Master

    <strong>Who:</strong> Donna Karan (63) <strong>Why:</strong> The international wellness crusader started her <a href="http://www.urbanzen.org/" target="_hplink">Urban Zen Foundation</a> (UZF) in the months following her husband's death to cancer. The UZF and the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy programs strive to integrate of yoga, meditation and aromatherapy into conventional treatment regimens. Photo: Getty

  • The Resilient Author

    <strong>Who: </strong>Joan Didion (76) <strong>Why:</strong> After the literary icon behind "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and "Play It As It Lays" endured the deaths of both her husband and daughter - she gave us the gift of "The Year Of Magical Thinking". "Blue Nights," Joan Didion's memoir about her daughter, Quintana, will be released on Nov. 1, 2011. Photo: Getty

  • The Reinventor

    <strong>Who:</strong> Maria Shriver (55) <strong>Why:</strong> After experiencing public betrayal, Shriver really showed her grace. She's won a Peabody Award and two Emmys for her broadcast journalism, but she's won the heart of her fans through her empathy and reliability. Post-scandal, she's back on the saddle again -- Shriver <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/maria-shriver-interviews-wallis-annenberg_n_963415.html#s361877" target="_hplink">interviewed</a> Wallis Annenberg for <em>Los Angeles Magazine</em>'s inaugural "Women's Issue". Photo: Getty

  • The Go-To Girl

    <strong>Who: </strong>Barbara Walters (82) <strong>Why: </strong>She's undeniably the queen of interviews having questioned the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Hugo Chavez, Anna Wintour, Katherine Hepburn and Anwar Al Sadat -- to name a few. Now holding the reigns on <em>The View</em> she's as strong as she's ever been. Photo: Getty

  • The CEO

    <strong>Who:</strong> Indra Nooyi (55) <strong>Why:</strong> The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo was the 2011 <a href="http://www.blogher.com/" target="_hplink">BlogHer</a> Keynote speaker and blew the crowd away. Business Week quoted Roger Enrico as saying, "Indra can drive as deep and hard as anyone I've ever met, but she can do it with a sense of heart and fun." Photo: Getty

  • The Funny Girl

    <strong>Who:</strong> Ellen Degeneres (53) <strong>Why:</strong> The 13-time Emmy winner has more than a fantastic sense of humor going for her. Not only did she risk <em>everything</em> to come out and conquer LGBT issues, she consistently supports the charitable efforts of the <a href="http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2011/05/please_help_the_tornado_victims_0525.php" target="_hplink">American Red Cross</a> and the <a href="http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2011/09/donate_to_farm_sanctuary_0916.php" target="_hplink">Farm Sanctuary</a>. Photo: Getty

  • The Rockstar

    <strong>Who:</strong> Bonnie Raitt (61) <strong>Why:</strong> The best-selling, classic blues-playing rockstar follows in rebel music history with her long-standing political activism. She frequently speaks out against politicians she doesn't support and just as often she praises those she admires. In 2000, she was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame - for a game that mostly men play - but we aren't knocking her dad, John, because we loved him too. Photo: Getty

  • The Academy Queen

    <strong>Who:</strong> Meryl Streep (62) <strong>Why:</strong> Not only does she have 16 Academy Award nominations and 25 Golden Globe nominations, but she often has won these accolades playing roles that defy the gender roles assigned to women. Streep plays Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming film, "The Iron Lady". Photo: Getty

  • The Peacemaker

    Who: Hillary Clinton (63) Why: The current Secretary of State is no stranger to gossip. She has always risen above adversity with dignity and style. Not only was she an active First Lady, but she did as we know, run for President herself. No shame in that! Photo: Getty

  • The Power Player

    Who: Diane Sawyer (65) Why: The former host of <em>Good Morning America </em>and current anchor of <em>ABC World News</em> has interviewed famous people such as Robert McNamara, Nancy Pelosi, Richard Nixon, Nancy Reagan, Madonna, and Roman Polanski. She was one accused of being "Deep Throat" and has fought the "Mommy War" rumors with ease. Photo: Getty

  • The 'Leading' Lady

    <strong>Who:</strong> Angela Merkel (57) <strong>Why:</strong> The current Chancellor of Germany has epitomized a female in a position of leadership. <em><a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2066367_2066369_2066098,00.html #ixzz1bTuNodMU " target="_hplink">TIME Magazine</a></em> once said, she has "a spirit of compromise in the service of a genuine ambition -- and fed by a desire for openness." According to <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Business/worlds-100-powerful-women-angela-merkel-hillary-clinton/story?id=14364193" target="_hplink">ABC News</a>, Merkel is the "undisputed leader of the EU." Not bad. Photo: Getty

  • The Pioneer

    <strong>Who:</strong> Jill Abramson (57) <strong>Why:</strong> We call her "The Pioneer" because Jill Abramson is the first female editor of the <em>New York Times</em> in the newspaper's history. Some rumors have her as difficult to work with and others proclaim her dedication to NYC based on the subway token tattoo she has on her right shoulder (via <em><a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/jill-abramson/" target="_hplink">Forbes</a></em>). Either way you swing it, she's a woman who is revolutionizing the way women are viewed in media and publishing. Photo: Patrick McMullan

  • The Helper

    <strong>Who:</strong> Condoleezza Rice (56) <strong>Why:</strong> The former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor did not forget the importance of strong educational roots. After her time concluded at the White House, Rice returned to Stanford as a Political Economy Professor in the Graduate School of Business. Rice has been prolific in female society roles. She is on the Board at both the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Photo: Getty

  • The Girl's Girl

    <strong>Who:</strong> Gloria Steinem (77) <strong>Why:</strong> As the leader of the Women's Liberation Movement, Steinem has been at this for a while -- and she's not backing down. She co-founded the Women's Media Center, the Coalition of Labor Union Women and <em>Ms. Magazine</em>. She is writing a book about her activism, with the working title of "Road to the Heart: America As if Everyone Mattered." Photo: Getty

  • The Movie Star

    <strong>Who:</strong> Michelle Pfeiffer (53) <strong>Why:</strong> The one-time Cat woman has shied away from press in the past, but her recent cover for <em>Elle Magazine</em>'s "Women In Hollywood 2011" issue has reminded us all that she never really left the limelight. Photo: Getty

 

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