Opinion | Sheryl Sandberg’s Advice for Working Women

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To the Editor:

Re “Sandberg’s Advice Was ‘Lean In.’ It Hasn’t Worked for All Women” (front page, June 3):

Your article seems to denigrate Sheryl Sandberg because her lean-in philosophy does not work for all women. Is there some approach in any realm that does work for everyone? Ms. Sandberg made an important contribution by letting women know that keeping your head down and doing good — even great — work is not the recipe for success.

Women cannot wait around hoping to be recognized; rather, they must ask for what they want. Men are socialized to do this, women are not, and thus her lean-in instruction was and continues to be an important lesson in how to succeed.

Instead of focusing on her inability to solve every problem for every working woman, I wish the Times headline had focused on the good that her book achieved.

Karin Kramer Baldwin
Petaluma, Calif.

To the Editor:

The article about Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” quotes many women who were disappointed by the book’s advice. Those women claim that despite their best attempts they were not successful essentially because they are women.

​Women who take this approach are doomed to failure. As a former business owner, I remember having discussions with problematic women employees. Some responded by claiming that I was making these criticisms only because they are women. My retort: “No, I am talking about you — not women. I am referring to what you are doing wrong.” ​

When confronting obstacles — or criticism — every woman must first ask herself what she personally is doing to cause her problems. Using the gender card prevents women from undertaking the introspection that leads to positive change. Blaming men for one’s failure will never earn anyone respect.

When thinking about how each of us reacts to others in our lives, we realize that gender is just one of many factors. A person’s demeanor, age, knowledge, talents, energy and much more affect our view of another. Women need to think of themselves as the individuals they are. Life is truly personal — not defined by gender or any other physical characteristics.

Frayda Lev​in
Mountain Lakes, N.J.

To the Editor:

I am an attorney and a proud mother of four children, ranging in age from 4 to 15. My life bears little practical resemblance to Sheryl Sandberg’s (cut out the glamour and many of the luxuries). However, since reading Ms. Sandberg’s book nine years ago, I have felt a renewed sense of strength and camaraderie with other working mothers.

Life as a working mother often feels as if I am running a marathon with most onlookers saying, “You can’t do it; you should just stop now; no way you can finish.” Simply reading Ms. Sandberg’s success story made me feel that there is a way to finish the marathon, even if I do it in a more plebeian way than she does (and like Ms. Sandberg, I frequently denied that background noise came from my breast pump!).

Rachel Reingold Mandel
Newton, Mass.

Seeking the Sources of Moral Authority

To the Editor:

“There’s a Way for Democrats to Win the Morality Wars,” by David Brooks (column, May 20), is yet another thoughtful, well-intentioned essay by this writer. But he underestimates the community ethos that has always been an integral part of classic liberalism.

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