September 2013

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W hen Facebook COO and new mom Sheryl Sandberg published her now iconic book "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead" in March, she opened the floodgates of a controversy over women's roles in a 21st-century "post-feminist" society. Acknowledging the lack of women in top business positions at large, successful companies, Sandberg seemed to admonish women for failing to push harder, dream bigger and compete successfully with men in the working world. Her book has become a motivational tool for women aspiring to top positions, but critics say it also excludes and marginalizes women with diverging priorities. It's created a firestorm of public opinion and has received a slew of coverage from major media outlets. Sandberg's book and the resulting discussion revived the debate about women choosing work over family. But in this incarnation, the debate takes place at a time when women are the breadwinners of their families more than ever before, and when the memory of a middle-class family having only one working parent recedes further into the past. But Madisonians take heart: the website NerdWallet recently ranked the best cities for working women, and Madison came in near the top. So what does the lean in phenomenon mean to women in Madison? To find out, we interviewed women in different roles and at different stages of life about their reactions to Sandberg's book, and the cultural dialogues it inspires. WRiTTEn bY anne morrissy illUSTRATiOnS bY emily balsley leAning oUt And loving it Anna Ironside of Madison was a freelance photographer and small business owner working in everything from commercial and editorial work to catalog production until she and her husband decided it was best for her to stay home with their three kids, ages 6, 4 and 16 months. Now, she's intentionally leaning out—and she's fine with that. "I am a freelance photographer and I was running my own business in 2007 when my first child was born. By the time the second one came around, the cost of childcare was prohibitive. My husband's job provided the insurance, so it made more sense for me to put my business on hold for a few years. If I had been carrying the insurance, my husband would be home right now. "Some days I'm happy to have put my career on hold, some days I feel like it was a sacrifice. But ultimately, it came down to the fact that I didn't want to pay people to raise my children for me. I feel bad for those parents who don't have any other choice. They essentially miss the best parts of their kids' lives. Frankly, I feel incredibly lucky that my husband has an incredible job that allows us to pull back on our internal budget so that it's financially feasible for me to stay home," she explains. Ironside thinks that Sandberg's book takes too narrow a view of women who work. "The working class has to lean in just to survive, so it's a very privileged position Sandberg is in. If you're a member of the Facebook elite team, you might have an important job, but it's a one-in-a-billion job. Most women are working to survive and don't have the choice of leaning in or leaning out." september 2013 | bravamagazine.Com 43

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