Sheryl Sandberg's Silicon Valley HR

For Mother's Day, I finished reading Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In.

Sandberg gives advice that she expressly admits (she hopes, I hope, we all hope) will be dated within the lifetimes of our children, if not sooner.

For instance, she advises women to conduct job negotiations following an approach she attributes to a Harvard Professor Hannah Riley Bowles: first, they must be "nice," and second, they must justify their requests. Men needn't bother. "I understand the paradox," Sandberg acknowledges, "of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations."

That's bold.


She also describes some non-conventional HR practices she has followed as an executive, including a willingness to ask women about their plans for children, sometimes even in a job interview context.

That's bolder. 

Late in the book, she reflects on how employment discrimination law presents an impediment to frank discussion about issues that directly impact the ability of employers and employees to discuss where family and professional lives will intersect:

"The first time I asked a prospective employee if she was considering having children soon, I understood that doing so could expose me and my company to legal risk. Unlike many women, I was in a position to evaluate this risk and chose to take it. The laws that protect women and minorities and people with disabilities, among others, from discrimination are essential, and I am not suggesting they be circumvented. But I have also witnessed firsthand how they can have a chilling effect of discourse, sometimes even to the detriment of the people they are designed to defend. I don't have a solution to this dilemma and will leave it to public policy and legal experts to solve. I do think this is worth some serious attention so we can find a way to deal with these issues in a way that protects but doesn't suppress."

A lot to unpack there.

Image from Google Maps.

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