The Journey with Joan Ball

This is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. She wrote a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead that hits stores tomorrow. In conjunction with the book, Sandberg is kicking off a movement that involves women coming together into 8-10 person “Lean In Circles” to encourage one another as they pursue leadership positions at work while balancing family and other responsibilities.

Lean In emerged from this TED talk and this commencement speech at Barnard College where Sandberg discusses her take on why there are so few female leaders. In a nutshell, Sandberg suggests that women tend to “lean back” rather than “lean in” at work, unlike their male counterparts.

Sandberg and her movement have people talking. Lots of people.

She’s is on the cover of TIME Magazine with a headline that reads. “Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Successful” that led Forbes to accuse the magazine of starting a “Cat Fight” between women who support Sandberg’s message and those who are challenging it.

And reactions to Sandberg and her message are undoubtedly mixed.

Supporters believe she is reinvigorating a stalled feminism at a time when aspiring Generation Y leaders are entering their 30s.

Detractors claim she is blaming women for a lack of cultural/organizational supports that would allow women, particularly working mothers, to “lean in”.

My pre-ordered book hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read it myself.

In the meantime, I’ll be Tweeting the 60 Minutes interview tonight @joanpball and will be checking in with this story over the next few weeks. I’d love to hear what you think of Sandberg’s message and how it intersects with your work/life journey.

Let’s follow this story together!




What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “Breadwinner”?

How does this JC Penny commercial compare to that image and what does it say about 21st Century working woman’s journey?

How about the 21st Century working man?

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer raised eyebrows when she took the helm of the faltering tech company last year. Not only was she the youngest ever female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, she was 5 months pregnant when she got the gig. Don’t worry, she assured tech watchers.  “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it.”

That decision to take the job and pooh-pooh her need for a maternity leave received mixed reactions ranging from support to concern that her decision might be a step backward for women with less power and resources. CNNMoney writer Katherine Reynolds Lewis encapsulated the discourse with a simple question: Marissa Mayer’s Brief Maternity Leave: Progress or Workaholism?

Last Friday, Mayer made another decision that has tech newsies buzzing. According to a memo leaked by company employees, effective, June 2013, all Yahoo employees who work remotely will either report to an office or quit.

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses that was reprinted on “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

But is that true in a world with Skype and Google hangouts and…well…Yahoo!?

Huffington Post Work/life columnist Lisa Belkin doesn’t think so. She writes:

“I had hope for Marissa Mayer. I’d thought that while she was breaking some barriers — becoming the youngest woman CEO to run a Fortune 500 company, and certainly the first to do it while pregnant — she might take on the challenge of breaking a number of others. That she’d use her platform and her power to make Yahoo! an example of a modern family-friendly workplace. That she would embrace the thinking that new tools and technology deserve an equally new approach to where and how employees are allowed to work.”

But is that Marissa’s mandate? Does being young and female and pregnant when she took the CEO position mean that we should expect her to make “family-friendly” decisions for Yahoo? Or is expecting her to do so a sneaky sort of reverse-sexism?

Asked another way, what do/should expect from high-profile working mothers like Marissa Mayer?







I sat for about two hours yesterday with a student who asked me to help her figure out what to do next with her life. She is a senior, graduating in may with a near 4.0 cumulative average. She’s a hard worker with 3 or 4 internships at impressive companies under her belt.

I was ready for the “how do I get my career up and running quickly” questions I’ve come to expect from my students, but this conversation went in a different, but increasingly typical, direction. She wasn’t looking for advice on how to network, write a killer cover letter or nail an interview…she has a good handle of those tactics already.

I asked her a few questions about her interests, figuring she might be looking for help defining her options. We quickly outlined a half a dozen amazing possibilities, each of which were more than achievable given her skills, interests and drive. Good for her, I thought. Any of these approaches would set her off on an interesting journey.

But her body language made it clear that these equally appealing paths diverging ahead of her were less a cause for celebration than a source of confusion and uncertainty. I’d seen this before and waited for the question I knew was coming next…

“But how do I decide?” she asked me. “How do I know what to do…I just don’t want to make a mistake.”

So what would you have told this 21 year old woman with all the possibilities in the world ahead of her? How do you  discern what to do next when faced with a variety of equally appealing options?

Please share and I’ll pass your advice on to her!