Sheryl Sandberg

Reluctant Sunshine Girls

I spent a recent Saturday with my dear old friend Susie talking about life and our futures — the whole “where to next” conversation so typical of FabulousOver60s.

Bill and I are recent downsizers: we went from two houses to one in the beautiful desert of Arizona as home base. Susie and her husband are also joining us – in downsizing that is, with home base in Florida.

We feel blessed to have great places to be when it gets cold and dreary – can’t beat winter in a sunshine state. But we are reluctant to lose our roots and time in the northeast where we both grew up. While not miserable (no fabulous women are miserable – we correct that state of affairs pronto) we want it all – our sunshine homes but also more time in the places more historical and varied with a change of seasons and not just “fun in the sun”.

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Seems Susie and I are in the swim – we both live in states that have the oldest populations of over 65s – yes, Florida and Arizona. But being part of the trend doesn’t seem to make us less likely to think about old-fashioned Christmas’s in NY or CT or Denver. Nor are we believers in the “dry heat myth of Arizona” or the “just a little humidity myth of summers in Florida”. Too much of anything (except shoes) is always a bad thing. Our husbands disagree – both want to spend more time in the sun and resist any talk of a second permanent apartment/condo where we grew up.

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I wonder how many other FabulousOver60s are reluctant sunshine girls – loving the privilege of avoiding the winter but wistful for more energy from the big city. Or seeing the leaves change and getting started again on a project just like we did when younger?

Am finding that there is no more a perfect retirement/semi-retirement lifestyle than there was a perfect lifestyle in one’s 30s or 40s. We were a generation of woman who wanted it all. Many of us had a solid version of that juggling careers, family responsibilities, travel and an occasional sun baked vacation. It makes me a little sad to read how much things have NOT changed in workplace where the wars still wage on gender equality and work/life balance. There are new voices of course – but on-going issues.

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Perhaps what we can model to younger women is a better range of options as we age; and changing multiple times, not just getting “set” and keeping that one lifestyle and approach. As Sheryl Sandberg recently said in an interview: “No one can have it all”. We were wrong to think we could and now we are equally wrong if we think we can have a perfectly ordered, balanced older life – with just the perfect amounts of work (paid and unpaid), fun, sun, our roots and traveling. It is always all about price isn’t it?

I have always believed life is like a garden – tons of gorgeous flowers to pick and hold close. But every flower has a price tag – from orchids to daisies – we make choices. And those choices lead to leaving things behind, doing less of some wonderful options, and accepting the downside to any great choice. No matter how much you love and honor your partner – if you never have a day dreaming of their demise I don’t believe you.

We can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan – and never let him forget he’s a man.

It wasn’t true then – it isn’t true now. Relax and have fun, love your choices and be open to change. That is the best thing to model to our younger friends and children – no matter where you live, or what you do. Encourage them to accept and enjoy NOT having it all – instead loving the best parts of what they have chosen – just like us FabulousOver60s do. Or at least try to.

Patty

Not Being Liked: A Woman’s Penalty For Success?

Recent research suggests that some of the analysis mentioned by Sheryl Sandberg in her efforts to get women more focused on their own professional success is no longer quite accurate. The recent Zenger Folkman’s research seems to indicate that likability and success go together with both male and female leaders.

Courtesy Forbes

Courtesy Forbes

During my career that began in the 70s, considering what others thought of me was an obvious goal. Competence always mattered — but colleagues and clients had to like me and be comfortable with me first — especially since I was a woman. Most working people valued and worked hard to achieve being liked and respected. In the age before social media, that meant either externally conforming to the aspired-to group, or working to demonstrate some widely regarded behavior of a good and/or successful person. Great leaders inspire respect — a little fear would be an example — and given the times, that meant mainly men. Or, to put it differently, there weren’t many women leaders period — to like or not like.
 
It’s not that I don’t hope the Zenger Folkman research isn’t correct — I believe that it is correct and changing all the time. Changing in the direction of men and women being “liked” for similar reasons of ethical, successful, competent behavior.
 
What had me worried for a while was the raging narcissism and undeserved self-love that workplace professionals developed in the last 10 years (did the recession make us nuts? My initial take is that it sure didn’t help!). People no longer seemed to care if people in general liked or respected them. Many people started wanting “likes” on Facebook more than the respect of others in the workplace–not bad of course, but little to do with liking, respecting or thinking well of people because they were seriously deserving of it.
 
I am certain now, that in retrospect, needing to be liked as much as we thought it mattered didn’t really matter as much as we thought. And that our own ‘over 60’ view of caring less and less about others’ opinions is due to age making us feel more entitled. Also because the culture overall has been saying over the last 10 years: “who gives a damn what anyone else thinks?” Neither is particularly admirable. You don’t have to have the respect of everyone… but no one?
 
But there does seem to be a limit to how disconnected and crazy self-involved people can become before a reality check happens. As more people seek to have lives of balance both professionally and personally, research on how to do that continues to circle back to the wisdom of the ages — albeit in new clothes. Being a person who is authentic, focused on achieving good for both themselves and others, who is healthy and happy and strong is returning as a definition of success. And that now pertains to BOTH men and women.
 
Maybe we could produce a new 2013 version of “It’s A Wonderful Life” with fewer core character changes than we thought would be needed just 10 years ago. People are learning what other smart people before them have — man or woman, being liked for reasons of character and substance is something worth striving for and this is, thankfully, actually what is happening for both sexes.

Can We Help Younger Women “Have It All” By Applying Our Lessons Learned?

Many of us left college determined to approach careers differently than our moms. We wanted to excel, to reach high levels of excellence in fields we were entering. We were raised to work hard, be strong, don’t cry much and earn others’ respect. We were able to enter the work force and resist fading even with push back, if not outright discrimination. Some of us chose to have families too — though we made sure that these choices in our “personal lives” did not ever under any circumstances harm our employers.
 
We stood by our companies and were loyal till the end — when many of us were blessed with enormous or at least some significant professional success — or depending on our timing, unceremoniously let go, fired or downsized. Ouch — some of us were truly stung when that happened.
 
When it comes to the younger generation of women, it seems to me that good, balanced and correct individual choices continue to be difficult to make and achieve. That is why I believe we owe our daughters, nieces, younger friends and colleagues some sage rather than flippant (or even worse, cynical) advice regarding the eternal quest to “have it all”, or at the least have a life that is full and makes sense.
 
I suggest that rather than trying to figure it all out given the changing times, you give and discuss three current books/articles with these important women in our lives. These books/articles likely will be more positively received than sharing “our stories of being women back in the day”. One at a time is also fine — as is finding something else fresh but relevant to the issues of “having it all” written by women who are in the workforce right now.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

First: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. It is a great read, well researched and fact-based. It is clear about its focus on helping women be more personally assertive and willing to lean in to high level work and success. Ms. Sandberg is to be congratulated for making something we thought was solved into genuinely fresh news. While many women keep making the point that more is needed than just leaning in, it makes a completely valid, even if insufficient, point.
 
Second, get a copy of Anne Marie Slaughter’s thoughtful article on why women still can’t have it all — it takes a different tack but helps broaden the discussion of why women are still in a tough spot in regards to balancing work and life choices. Just recently Dr. Slaughter accepted the role of president of the New America Foundation. She is an expert on women’s issues and a voice to add to other good ones of this time.
 
Finally, get younger women a copy of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book speaks to a world we didn’t address “back in the day” — women outside the US in under developed nations whose struggles were and still are greater than our own.
 
As adult women we are savvy enough to know that while lipstick colors are not really new, they have to keep pretending to be for new customers to embrace them. Same thing with issues much more serious. Never forget that letting other women have the stage and experience fresh frustration in their lives in a new time, is a much more powerful approach toward continuing progress than just repeating ourselves or insisting that “this issue has been handled”. That really doesn’t seem fair after all we have been through. It isn’t.

Photo: courtesy forbes.com

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