Women, Go Take Over the World! Or Don't.

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” –E.B. White

Two items came to me this week:

1. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, was the commencement speaker at Barnard College. An excerpt:

"As we sit here looking at this magnificent blue-robed class, we have to admit something that’s sad but true: men run the world. Of 190 heads of state, nine are women. Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of those seats are held by women. Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women; numbers which have not moved at all in the past nine years. Nine years. Of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women."

And later:

"Men make far fewer compromises than women to balance professional success and personal fulfillment. That’s because the majority of housework and childcare still falls to women. If a heterosexual couple work full time... the woman will do two times the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare that her husband will do. So it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further. A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world."

2. A book called Radical Homemakers, recently excerpted and reviewed by the Englewood Review of BooksI haven't read the book, but here is the germ of an idea that started the author, Shannon Hayes, down this path:

"If you have learned to live on less in order to take the time to nourish your family and the planet through home cooking, engaged citizenship, responsible consumption and creative living, whether you are male, female, or two people sharing the role, with or without children, full or part-time, please drop me a line and tell me your story."

And a summary of the book, from the review:

"Hayes spends the first half of the book persuading the reader as to why “reclaiming domesticity” is an honorable and necessary pursuit in modern America. She convincingly argues against the consumeristic, extractive culture of today. Hayes paints a picture for the reader of a third way – one in which the responsibilities associated with building and maintaining a loving and safe home are valued over an increased salary, more stuff and a better title."

So. In #1 we have a compelling vision of the need for women to be out in the workforce, leveling the field, and serving as leaders in industry and government. In #2 we have a vision of a world in which healthy families and communities take precedence over the big job and our traditional ideas about Making a Difference.

Am I right to see these two visions as perpendicular to one another? Or at least, in creative tension (or just tension) with one another?

And what does a woman do who finds both visions equally compelling?

That would be me, by the way.

I'll say more about this at some point, but I wonder what you hear in those two visions.