Lean In, Part II

It seems that my July “Lean In” blog post is still on my mind.  Wherever I turn, I’m finding additional information that keeps pulling me back to that topic, and I’ve found I have more to say on the matter.

First, I want to give a shout-out to my colleague, Jody Padar, who recently wrote an article for Accounting Today, “Before you Lean In, Jump Out!”   The way she described her path, it sounded quite similar to mine.  Like Jody, I leapt out of the upcoming part-time-mommy track in a large firm in favor of firm ownership and control over my own destiny.  Yes, it may have been risky and challenging, but you know what they say about the path less travelled.

Although I applaud Jody for the choices she has made, and I particularly applaud her for being a shining role model to women in the accounting profession, I will respectfully disagree with her advice.  I’m not sure that the answer for everyone is to jump out.  Firm ownership is not for everyone; not every leader wants to lead in the same way, by owning their own firm.

I’d like to see that the business environment in general changes enough so that the female leaders don’t feel like they have to leave a company to get their “lead” on.  Our choices shouldn’t be either/or.  You shouldn’t have to conform to the existing structure OR jump out and start your own firm.  Everyone should have the option of leaning in where they are without having to fight the uphill battles that come along with firm ownership if that’s not what they want to do.  Larger companies should also want to retain the employees that they’ve invested so much time, money, and training in by giving them opportunities to lead.  It seems like this win/win scenario should not be dismissed; let’s strive towards gaining some traction in that area by fighting the fight from within.

The second thing that recently drew my attention was this Ted Talk from Colin Stokes, “How Movies Teach Manhood.”


My favorite part of the talk is when he starts talking about the Bechdel Test.  Basically, there are three questions you should ask when watching a movie:

1.  Are there at least two women in the movie who have lines?
2.  Do the women talk to each other during the movie?
3.  Is their conversation about something other than a man?

I heard about this test from this Ted Talk several months ago, and I’m still amazed at how many movies I watch which flat-out fail this test.  It’s kind of stunning.

Another one of the statistics he brought up in the talk was that only 11 of the top 100 movies in 2011 had female protagonists, fewer than the number of women elected to Congress (18.3%).

That led me to do a quick web search to see how many businesses are currently owned by women, and I found this report published by American Express.  On the second page, I found this excerpt:

“Despite the fact that the number of women-owned
firms continues to grow at a rate exceeding the national
average, and now accounts for 29% of all enterprises,
women-owned firms only employ 6% of the country’s
workforce and contribute just under 4% of business
revenues—roughly the same share they contributed in
1997. When large, publicly traded firms are excluded,
women owned firms comprise 30% of the privately held
firm population and contribute 14% of employment and
11% of revenues.”

- The State of Women-Owned Business, 2013 by American Express Open

So I guess my question is this… how is it that women are so poorly represented everywhere… in business, in government, in movies…?

I can’t help but wonder… is this art reflecting life or life reflecting art?

And more importantly, how do we change that?