Why Lean In When I Can Stand Up Straight

Why Lean In When I Can Stand Up Straight

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Welcome to Off the Wall, where we bounce more than a few outlandish ideas off the traditional bricks and mortar of Wall Street news as we know it. But does this stuff really belong on the fringe? You be the judge. 

 

Sheryl Sandberg is leaning on unpaid interns. Marissa Mayer is reclining awkwardly for Vogue. Let's not even discuss where Oprah and Lindsey Lohan are going. What does one direction have that the others don't? I'm all about value-driven choices. Like investing for the long-term, and buying shoes that will last and not just look trendy for a day. I need to stop making impulse buys and eating too many last-minute, poorly chosen chocolates. There's plenty of value outside of Wall Street and my Frye boots. And I'm not seeing it here. 

Full disclosure: I have not read Lean In, and I don't intend to. I don't own shares in Facebook (FB) or Yahoo! (YHOO), and that won't change any time soon. So why pay attention to what these women do, say, write, wear, eat, buy, live and breathe? They aren't my role models, and I'll probably never meet them. 

Now I'm not going to take the high road and tell you stories about ordinary women who make better role models. The cleaning lady at my office? The night-shift nurse at the local hospital? They're more inspirational by several orders of magnitude. But I don't know much about them either. 

Who cares which way we're leaning? Why are we leaning at all? One side says we should focus on our careers, and even seek out partners with lower incomes. Another insists on having kids before the over-hyped age 40, preferably before 35. The directions in which we could lean, as women, are endless. 

Not only are we supposed lean in, but we're being pushed back from what feels like all directions. The gender pay gap extends all the way to the top. Violence against women transcends all boundaries. Wall Street bigwigs say we can't gamble as well as they can. Sex scandals and sexual health morphed into Washington's war on women (where we're apparently being attacked by both sides). 

So what's a woman to do? Sounds obvious, but why don't we just stand up straight? Shoulders back, head held high, confident smile and eyes wide open. We're healthier and happier when we don't scowl and hunch over. And we have every reason to be confident – we're smartsexy, and we live longer than our male counterparts. 

But beyond that, why do we have to choose one direction to lean in? I don't know about you but I change my mind constantly, and I love nothing more than learning something new. My opinions are shaped daily by what I see, read, hear – why can't I lean in all directions, or none? Feminism is about choice, and I'll choose to do whatever I please, thank you. Bachelor's degree? Done. Master's? No thanks. Career? Working on it. Marriage? I'm on the fence. Financial independence? That shouldn't even be a question.

Standing up straight means seeing everything around you and being able to look ahead. Take Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo (PEP). In charge since 2006, Nooyi has said "the CEO… who could get the biggest return in the shortest possible time… is yesterday's leader." She thinks short term and long term, embraces diversity and respects emotions, all while managing 22 brands, sales in over 200 countries and billions in cash flow (pdf). 

Or there's one of our office favorites, Pepsi's Frito-Lay Senior VP Ann Mukherjee, who straight up tells us that "shit happens… compensate for gaps and embrace your weaknesses."

And what about Martha Stewart? Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) may not be outperforming the market, but post-jail time, the business magnate herself had nowhere to go but up

So am I now too telling you which way to lean – eat Doritos and invest in an orange jumpsuit? Of course not. We'll never agree whether to lean or not to lean, just like we can't find consensus on abortion

I'm not looking for consensus. As long as we take care of ourselves and those we love, it doesn't matter whether we lean left, lean right, or occasionally fall over. Maybe I don't always make the best decisions, like ordering 10 pairs of shoes at a time from Zappos.com, or investing in Apple (AAPL) way too late in the game. So what? As long as I'm standing up straight – all five feet-three inches of me – I can be confident in my decisions (which I am). And I can lean any which way I choose. 

If the actions of high-earning women like Sandberg, Mayer, Nooyi and Stewart interest you more than they do me, here's a look at their respective companies' performance of late: 

For comparison, here's a chart showing the peak search interest for these women on Google: 

And here's how their respective tickers have performed on Google over the same period:

 

 

This piece comes to you from Emily Smykal, a Kapitall editor and a woman who, quite frankly, doesn't give a damn. Permission to share and re-post is happily granted.

 

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2 Responses to “Why Lean In When I Can Stand Up Straight”

  1. Chrissie L Archey says:

    Damn well said, Emily!!! I'm proud to know ya!! :D

    -Chrissie

  2. Gra says:

    OK, Emily Smykal !! Let's hear more from you!!

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