Katrina Alcorn has a bone to pick with Sheryl Sandberg. Alcorn, a working mom who left her job as a web design manager to start working for herself, thinks that too much emphasis on “leaning in” is causing stress for some parents.
(Photo Credit: Urbane Women Mag/Flickr)
“There’s a lot of value in that book. My main issue with the book is that unlike Sheryl Sandberg, I believe we need to give women permission to lean back when they need to,” Alcorn tells Today. “I’m the poster child for leaning in so hard that you fall over. I was managing a team of 17 designers, I was traveling around the country speaking at conferences, I came back to work sooner than I wanted to after maternity leave, but I did because I wanted to hang on to my job.”
The problem, Alcorn says, is that most jobs are structured in a way that requires the support of a partner who can manage daytime appointments and other domestic labor. And society is still set up so that this person, in male-female relationships, is usually the woman.
The result is a lot of stress, and a sense of not doing anything well. If women “lean in,” they feel guilty because they’re not spending as much time with their kids; if they “lean out,” they feel guilty because they’re neglecting their careers.
Men are also under pressure, Alcorn says, but not necessarily the same kind.
“Men do not, in general, deal with the same kind of guilt that women have,” she says in the interview. “Studies also show that women are still doing a lot more of the housework even when both parents work. So we’re still not experiencing it in the same way.”
What’s the answer? Ideally, it would be a combination of more social support, good communication between couples, and a continuing willingness to look at work as an evolving thing. Alcorn, for example, is now an author and works for herself as workplace consultant.
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