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Gorman: Women can't let glass ceiling turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, speaks at

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, speaks at a luncheon for the American Society of News Editors in San Diego. (April 7, 2011) Credit: AP

Gender equality. The glass ceiling. The terms aren’t new, but finding ways to tackle the issue are constantly coming out.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is a proponent of finding a balance between work and home to solve the problem. In "Lean In," a book about women in the workplace, Sandberg argues that to break the glass ceiling, we need to take a top-down approach, starting with women in government and letting that example cascade down through the workplaces.

The "Lean In" movement Sandberg is trying to create is "half business school and half book club," according to the New York Times. "Lean In Circles" will pair the book with a series of online tutorials and in-person discussions of how to be successful at work. It’s all about taking an active role at work and remaining engaged and energized at all times.

Sandberg says that women "lean back" when they start mentally preparing to raise a family. And they’re less likely to return to work with the same vigor after having a child.

It’s one of the factors of the whole "glass ceiling" thing.

The term is still relevant in some areas, but these days it serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. This point is made by Sandberg, who argues that women need to enter the workforce without preconceived notions of how high they can climb before starting a family and "leaning back."

In Cosmopolitan's April issue, Sandberg guest-edited the first careers insert. It included an excerpt from her book:

"Anyone who is lucky enough to have options should keep them for as long as possible. Don't enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don't put on the brakes. Continue to accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That's the only way to ensure that when that day comes, there will be a real decision to make."

Look, the term "glass ceiling" needs to go.

Telling a young woman that she's going to battle the glass ceiling at one point in her life is like telling a hypochondriac there's a person with the flu at her office. Suddenly, the woman is settling for a steady job instead of taking risks to move up — and the hypochondriac is running in the opposite direction.

But are support groups really necessary? Sandberg's "Lean In Circles," sound like they can only go in circles. The point of these groups is not to advise or make suggestions to members, only to listen and share personal experiences.

Sounds like the stereotype Sandberg is trying to break is actually being created. Let's all sit down and share our feelings about how mistreated we are . . . and then do nothing about it.

Please stop.

Now, I'm not saying that equality in the workplace doesn’t need to be discussed. But the feminist movement gave women the chance to achieve their dreams. The struggle for equality is still going on, but we don’t need to continue fighting as if it was still 1957 and Betty Friedan was writing “The Feminine Mystique.” It was a crucial moment, but we're past it.

While my generation should appreciate how far the women's movement has come and the amount of opportunities born out of it, we also should realize that most of the leg work has been done. It's in the past. It's time to raise the bar.

But how?

Just go. Don't hold back, don't let the glass ceiling turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Work, improve, climb the ladder, thrive. Accept the fact that dreams can change. Having a family doesn't necessarily mean your career is over.

Women should just go balls to the wall (no pun intended) and never look back.