Opinion | Sheryl Sandberg’s Advice for Working Women

To the Editor:

Re “Sandberg’s Advice Was ‘Lean In.’ It Hasn’t Worked for All Women” (front page, June 3):

Your article seems to denigrate Sheryl Sandberg because her lean-in philosophy does not work for all women. Is there some approach in any realm that does work for everyone? Ms. Sandberg made an important contribution by letting women know that keeping your head down and doing good — even great — work is not the recipe for success.

Women cannot wait around hoping to be recognized; rather, they must ask for what they want. Men are socialized to do this, women are not, and thus her lean-in instruction was and continues to be an important lesson in how to succeed.

Instead of focusing on her inability to solve every problem for every working woman, I wish the Times headline had focused on the good that her book achieved.

Karin Kramer Baldwin
Petaluma, Calif.

To the Editor:

The article about Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” quotes many women who were disappointed by the book’s advice. Those women claim that despite their best attempts they were not successful essentially because they are women.

​Women who take this approach are doomed to failure. As a former business owner, I remember having discussions with problematic women employees. Some responded by claiming that I was making these criticisms only because they are women. My retort: “No, I am talking about you — not women. I am referring to what you are doing wrong.” ​

When confronting obstacles — or criticism — every woman must first ask herself what she personally is doing to cause her problems. Using the gender card prevents women from undertaking the introspection that leads to positive change. Blaming men for one’s failure will never earn anyone respect.

When thinking about how each of us reacts to others in our lives, we realize that gender is just one of many factors. A person’s demeanor, age, knowledge, talents, energy and much more affect our view of another. Women need to think of themselves as the individuals they are. Life is truly personal — not defined by gender or any other physical characteristics.

Frayda Lev​in
Mountain Lakes, N.J.

To the Editor:

I am an attorney and a proud mother of four children, ranging in age from 4 to 15. My life bears little practical resemblance to Sheryl Sandberg’s (cut out the glamour and many of the luxuries). However, since reading Ms. Sandberg’s book nine years ago, I have felt a renewed sense of strength and camaraderie with other working mothers.

Life as a working mother often feels as if I am running a marathon with most onlookers saying, “You can’t do it; you should just stop now; no way you can finish.” Simply reading Ms. Sandberg’s success story made me feel that there is a way to finish the marathon, even if I do it in a more plebeian way than she does (and like Ms. Sandberg, I frequently denied that background noise came from my breast pump!).

Rachel Reingold Mandel
Newton, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “When an Abortion Is Pro-Life,” by Matthew Loftus (Opinion guest essay, May 21):

I sympathize greatly with Dr. Loftus. Many medical decisions can be fraught with doubt and uncertainty, but adding moral values into the mix, as happened with Dr. Loftus’s decision to perform an abortion, must be agony.

At least Dr. Loftus had the freedom to make the choice. Some states are prepared to make abortions illegal, even to the point of criminalizing doctors who perform them. How will a doctor be able to prove that an abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother after the fact, even if that exception exists?

The United States already has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries, a rate that is estimated to increase by 21 percent if all abortions are banned, as many states are likely to do when Roe v. Wade is overturned. Dr. Loftus asks, “If God does not want us to perform abortions, why did he put me in a situation where I would have to do one?”

Opinion Conversation
What will work and life look like after the pandemic?

Perhaps the answer is to think about the lives of women who will die from illegal abortions, those who will die from childbirth (many times more risky than an abortion procedure) and the lives wrecked from being forced to carry a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest to term. Those lives count, too.

Robert Checchio
Dunellen, N.J.

To the Editor:

I applaud your publishing Dr. Matthew Loftus’s moving story of having to perform an abortion to save a mother’s life. Not only did the essay highlight the serious problems women in poverty face because of lack of health care, it also showed the humanity and compassion of a doctor working in South Sudan.

His description of an abortion at 18 weeks brings home the fact that these fetuses are more developed and not just a blob of tissue. This is why the majority of Americans support common-sense restrictions after the first trimester.

Congress should work to pass a bill through compromise between moderates, conservatives and progressives that protects life and yet addresses women in crisis in the early weeks of pregnancy. But can that ever happen if both sides won’t budge?

Mary Curtius
Coronado, Calif.

To the Editor:

“There’s a Way for Democrats to Win the Morality Wars,” by David Brooks (column, May 20), is yet another thoughtful, well-intentioned essay by this writer. But he underestimates the community ethos that has always been an integral part of classic liberalism.

In contrast to the conservative “you are not your own” ethos cited by Mr. Brooks, which holds that individual thought and action must always be governed by external authority, the liberal ethos might be stated as “we need each other.”

It is rooted in the recognition that our lives are intimately intertwined with others — we rise or fall together — and envisions a much broader, inclusive sense of community than that of conservatism.

(One example: Witness the contrasting response of red and blue states to the Covid vaccine. Conservatives as a group tend to value individual freedom much more highly than concern for the common good.)

I believe that liberals would be well served by rediscovering and re-articulating this vision. With so much intellectual dishonesty and immoral behavior rampant under the banner of current conservatism, how about a renewed liberal emphasis on values such as community, honesty, integrity, fairness, respect for differences, compassion, self-sacrifice and responsibility?

This can be expressed without being “preachy” and “judgmental,” as many younger progressives decidedly are, if it arises from a genuine sense of humility, the recognition that each and every one of us is capable of being and doing wrong — one of the prime reasons we need each other, and another feature of classic liberalism.

Jay Udall
Oakton, Va.

To the Editor:

I am a liberal Democrat. And by all measures a decent and moral person.

Just to put David Brooks’s false equivalency issue in proper perspective, I am not at all prepared to have the Republican Party — which has long stood for racism, sexism, violence, lies and fundamentalist religion — lecture me or prescribe to me on morality.

Lyndon Dodds
San Antonio

To the Editor:

Re “‘Top Gun’ Sequel Soars” (Arts, May 30):

Is it not ironic that while the whole country is mired in shootings and talking about banning this gun and that gun, “Top Gun: Maverick” was the blockbuster movie for the past couple of weeks? That movie and many others as well as popular video games all point to a deep culture of guns, violence and brutality.

Ron A. Virmani
Charlotte, N.C.

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