Sheryl Sandberg has changed the way we speak about women in the workforce with her best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In doing so, many criticize Facebook's chief operating officer for writing from a perspective of privilege, specifically giving advice to wealthy women with supportive partners. In light of the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl re-examines the strength of single moms.
"People become single parents for many reasons: loss of a partner, breakdown of a relationship, by choice. One year and five days ago I joined them," she shared on Facebook on Mother's Day. "For me, this is still a new and unfamiliar world. Before, I did not quite get it." Sheryl's husband Dave died suddenly of heart-related causes. "I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home," she says. "I realize how extremely fortunate I am not to face the financial burdens so many single mothers and widows face. Poverty is one of the hidden and devastating aftereffects of loss for women. By the time they are sixty-five, about one in five widows in the United States lives in poverty. Cohabitating and many same-sex couples who lose partners are particularly vulnerable as they are often not afforded the same rights of survivorship that married heterosexual couples have."
She continues, "I will never experience and understand all of the challenges most single moms face, but I understand a lot more than I did a year ago...Single moms have been leaning in for a long time—out of necessity and a desire to provide the best possible opportunities for their children."
Hopefully this realization inspires more executives to be more mindful in developing corporate cultures geared towards all kinds of families.