Four years ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In touched off a national conversation on women’s professional advancement, but faced criticism for failing to adequately recognize the profound obstacles outside their control less privileged women face in the workplace. In sharp contrast, Sandberg’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resistance, and Finding Joy, repeatedly recognizes the difficulties facing low income women and women of color and calls for public policy to address those needs.
Option B was prompted by Sandberg’s experiences following the unexpected death of her husband Dave Goldberg, including as a parent to two young children. While noting her own struggles following this tragic loss, Sandberg repeatedly reflects on how similar situations can be even more devastating for those without the resources and privileges she enjoys and calls for new protections. As she writes, “What we do in our communities and companies—the public policies we put in place, the ways we help one another—can ensure that fewer people suffer.”
In particular, she calls for many of the policy goals we fight for at A Better Balance, including:
- Closing the wage gap, particularly for women of color: As Option B notes, the loss of a partner can be not only emotionally but financially devastating for many women, who often earn less throughout their lives than male partners; because of persistent wage inequality, Black and Latina women are particularly hard hit. That’s why we’re working to increase pay equity through measures like prohibiting asking about salary history.
- Recognizing and protecting the diversity of American families: Sandberg writes “We need to embrace all families regardless of the different forms they take and provide the help they need to get through the hardships they face.” This commitment lies at the heart of our LGBT/Work-Family Project, which fights for inclusive family definitions in key workplace laws. Option B also calls special attention the needs of single mothers.
- Paid family and medical leave and paid sick time: While Facebook’s policies allowed her to take the time away she needed after her husband’s death, Sandberg notes that too many Americans, especially low-income workers, do not have the time away they need to bond with a new child or care for an ill relative. As she notes, citing the research of her co-author Professor Adam Grant, policies that support workers are beneficial to businesses as well as workers.
When adversity arises, all workers need options to do what’s right for them and their families. We applaud Sandberg’s thoughtful call to action and hope that it sparks a deeper national conversation on the needs of working families.