I refused to be one of those people who criticized – or even commented too much – on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, until I’d read it. Since my week included client crises, a non-profit board meeting, tap and drum lessons and oh yes, recovering from the hour we lost to Daylight Savings Time, I didn’t even pull it up on my iPad until late Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised to find many things I agreed with, yet often in the next paragraph I’d find something very wrong. Here are four of those Right/Wrong pairs.

1. RIGHT: Subconscious bias is at the heart of the problem.

“…research has already clearly shown: success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. …    I believe this bias is at the very core of why women are held back.”

Yes! Sandberg shines a light on the important research on implicit bias related to women and mothers. The challenge today is to help good people understand that they too act based on biases of which they have no conscious awareness.

WRONG: Asking women to challenge subconscious bias but giving up on the idea that we could also change processes and structures to mitigate for it.

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Our daughter Kate was a pretty typical Reese’s-peanut-butter-cup-eating, fight-with-my-parents-to-eat-junk-food-because-it’s-a-god-given-right-of-childhood kind of kid.

Then we started watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on TV when they were filming in Los Angeles. Jamie is a British chef who’s on a crusade to save America’s health by changing the way people eat. In the process he provides a great lesson on two steps that can change the way people do anything. One, use emotion to shake up existing beliefs. Two, give people a simple, specific, repeatable action they can take.

We watched an episode where Jamie rolls a food cart into a high school Social Studies class and invites the kids up to make their own sundaes. They eagerly pile their bowls of ice cream with fudge sauce and sprinkles and candy gumballs and cookie dough bits and Twinkies and return to their desks.

Then, Jamie makes his own sundae.

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In the New York Times piece “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part” Matt Richtel explores the meaning of marriage today, including proposals in Mexico City to create short-term renewable marriage contracts as brief as two years as a way to deal with how many marriages fail. Me, I’m not a fan of going into marriage with an arbitrary expiration date on the arrangement as if it can be tossed like a rotten carton of eggs.

As Richtel also concludes, I prefer the approach that Stephanie Coontz, the research director at the Council on Contemporary Families, shares in his article, “…there is value in asking people to consider and regularly assess their commitment, not necessarily based on a timetable but around life events: when you have kids, one spouse gets a new job or starts to work more hours, a family member dies, the kids leave home.”

Modern marriage has changed in ways that require regular remodeling of the contract.

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In the summer of 1997, a few years before our daughter was born, my husband David and I went with some friends to the game that launched the Women’s National Basketball Association. The Los Angeles Sparks were playing the New York Liberty at the Great Western Forum, the arena where the legendary Lakers played. We got our popcorn and gooey nachos. We found our seats. We laughed and talked while the players warmed up. Then we all stood for the national anthem.

As the first notes played, I started crying.

My tears took me by surprise. I watched the players with their eyes on the flag and their hands on their hearts. I took in the packed stadium and the TV cameras. I realized that if I ever had a daughter, she would never know a world where girls couldn’t play basketball.

The tears ran down my cheeks and wouldn’t stop.

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Our Wedding Day

I am so fed up with advice from people telling women that if they just make the right personal choices at the right time in the right order then there is no problem fitting career, marriage, and kids into our lives.

That’s a load of crap. If anyone had been able to figure out a way to PLAN her way through this worklife mess it would have been me.

Let me just take one example of this kind of advice – Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tells women in commencement addresses and TED talks:

The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry. I have an awesome husband, and we’re 50/50…having a supportive spouse — a real partner — will play a huge part in your success.” 

The implication is that as long as you marry the right guy you’ll be fine, and if you aren’t fine, well, you made the wrong choice. Too bad.

My “awesome husband” David and I were married seven years before our daughter was born. While I don’t believe we thought of it as a “career choice” we certainly married because we shared a vision of our future together. And for seven years we shared household chores and generally tackled life together, as “real partners.” We always assumed we’d both have careers when we had kids, and that we’d share parenting “50/50.”

Then within a few short months of our daughter’s birth, our lives turned into something more like a 1950’s Leave it to Beaver episode.

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I’m a sucker for the stories behind the Olympic athletes, long years of hard work, overcoming heartbreaking setbacks, financial sacrifice, finally reaching the medal stand. Doesn’t take much to choke me up. So all of the videos and commercials in the Proctor & Gamble Olympic ad campaign, “Thank You Mom” pretty much reduce me to tears.

Yet I hate the entire campaign. Why? Because the focus on moms reinforces outdated stereotypes.

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