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BW Businessworld

The Real Deal

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“If you want to be nice to your wife, don’t buy her flowers, but do the laundry,” is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s prescription to men. In short, men need to lean in so that women can lean out of the house and rise up the corporate ladder.

Even as Sandberg was painting this idyll during her whirlwind tour to India, Pepsico’s power woman Indira Nooyi was destroying it. In an uncharacteristically candid interview she revealed, “Women cannot have it all.”  She admitted to guilt feelings about not being there often for her daughters and the raw deal that spouses often get.

Let’s face it. Men may lean in, but will the kids do so too? Will parents be understanding and supportive and not interfere? Will the guilt ever leave the woman? Will we stop trying to be superwomen?

Nooyi’s interview actually comes as a relief for thousands of women trying to excel in all roles – as wife, as mother, as successful career girl, as a chilled out friend, as dutiful daughter and daughter in law. The pressure is now finally off.  No more need to do precarious balancing, and please every single person in our lives.

Men may argue that they don’t “have it all” either – and they too do a balancing act. But the difference is that they are not expected to be successful at all roles. Or enjoy it all. If they are not super dad and absent at that school do, society is forgiving. A mom’s absence on the other hand is commented upon. If men skip a wedding event in the family citing work pressures, everyone understands. Not so easily can a woman get away.

By blowing the lid off the issue, Nooyi has helped women. Now that the role model admits it’s a tough act, we can set our own standards a bit lower, throw the unnecessary stress out, and enjoy our lives.  We can, at last, Lean Back!