TORN Video Trailer
The Amalfi Coast, with its string of towns from Positano to Sorrento, has been a getaway for the rich and famous since ancient Roman times. From the jet-setting isle of Capri to the dramatic cliff towns of the Amalfi, from ancient Pompeii to even more ancient Paestum, this is Italy’s coast with the most.
During the summer months, there’s a visitor for every local– which is not always a good thing. With the tourists come high prices, mediocre restaurant service, crowded beaches and uncomfortably packed buses. So how do you get the most of the Amalfi Coast– and nearby Capri– without feeling like a taken-advanged of tourist who’s destined to eat overpriced meals in restaurants surrounded by other English-speaking guests? Follow these tips, and you’ll find out how.
- Avoid the high season. It’s not always possible, but if you can travel during the “shoulder season”– May/June or September/October– you will avoid the crowds, the heat, and the hefty prices of the high tourist season (July and August). Traveling in late May was perfect. We were able to make restaurant reservations without a problem and spend time on the rocky beaches of the Amalfi Coast without feeling claustrophobic. Expect the Tyrennian Sea to be a bit chilly, however.
- Stay in a villa, not a hotel. While Italy is known for its history and old-world style, some of the “grand dame” hotels are feeling just that– old. The latest trend in Italian chic is the villa-turned-boutique hotel. Once the homes of wealthy Italian families, these retreats offer the amenities of a hotel, but a distinctly more personal experience. We stayed at the JK Place on Capri, a small, smart and ultra-stylish hotel that recently counted Jennifer Aniston and her beau as guests. For all its designer decor and state-of-the-art technology, the atmosphere is intimate, and the staff unfailingly kind. You feel more like you are staying at your (really rich) friend’s home than a hotel. Simone Giorgi, the General Manager, has a discreet but elegant way of making all of his guests feel like A-listers, greeting each of them at the front door upon arrival and bidding them “fair well” when they depart.
- Eat like a local. Restaurants are notoriously over-priced in this region and have been known to charge upwards of 10 Euros for one gelato. But the locals need to eat too, so how do they do it without going broke? Start by eating what they eat. The Campania region is the breeding ground for for “buffalo mozzarella,” and nearby Naples is the pizza-making capital of the world. Local pesce (fish), including octopus, prawns, calamari and clams, are plucked from the sea daily and are as good in a light summer salad as they are tossed over linguini. The regional wines are delicious, with prices that don’t break the bank. Beware of the restaurants that your hotel/concierge recommends– they tend to be touristy, over-priced and inauthentic. Instead, read restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor, or ask your hotel where the locals eat. Some of our favorite restaurants were small family-owned joints that served some of the best pizza and fish we’ve ever had: Da Vicenze and Taverna del Leone in Positano, and Da Paolino near the Marina Grande on Capri.
- Put on your walking shoes. Walking and hiking the Amalfi Coast, with its hills and endless steps, is not for the feint of heart. But if you are in good shape, there is no better way to visit the small towns and villages that dot the coastline. We walked the breathtaking Il Sentiero degli Dei, the Pathway of the Gods, that runs above the towns of the Amalfi Coast, where we stopped to picnic in the shade of a shepherd’s hut with a breathtaking view of the coast. We climbed 700 steps from Capri Town to Anacapri and hiked out to the Villa Jovis, the Roman Emporer Tiberius’ pleasure palace, where he would thrown his enemies off the cliffs into the sea. One of our favorite hikes was from Positano to the small town of Nocelle, through olive and lemon groves. Hotels and local book stores provide detailed maps of walks and hiking trails in the area.
- Visit the Blue Grotto after hours. We visited the Blue Grotto at 5 p.m., after it was technically “closed.” It was a perfect time to visit– no crowds, no fuss. Simply take a taxi from Anacapri and ask to go to the “Grotta Azzurra.” The taxi will deposit you at stairs that lead down to the sea. At the bottom of the stairs, there is a small platform with a few steps into the water. The entrance to the cave is about 10 breast strokes away. If you go during “open” hours (9 a.m.- 4 p.m.), you have to pay to hire a boat and then pay again to enter the grotto. You’ll also have to wait your turn at the entrance because there are many other boats waiting to get inside– not good if you suffer from motion sickness!
- Hire a boat. The best way to see the Amalfi Coast is from the water. It is truly breathtaking. Several boat companies are available to take your on a tour (you can read reviews on Tripadvisor), which is typically half- or full-day (3-4 hours or 7-8 hours, respectively). Make sure that you negotiate on price. Our captain was informative and fun. We were free to move about the boat and were able to hop off at places like the Emerald Grotto, which was beautiful and less crowded than the famous Blue Grotto. Check with your hotel to see if they offer a complimentary boat ride (many do so, but don’t always advertise it). Along with stops at various seaside towns, these excursions often include lunch of fresh fish and pasta.
- Don’t buy the tourist stuff. Shopping on the Amalfi Coast and Capri is crazy expensive. While designer labels such as Prada and Fendi have outlets in Capri Town, the prices are still high. If you want to take something home as a gift or a souvenir, you can buy the exotic perfumes made on Capri at the popular Carthusia on Via Camerelle 10. Their Aria di Capri concoction of orange, lemon, mimosa and peach was developed in the 17th century by monks at a nearby monastery. Capri’s famous jewel-studded sandals, while beautiful, will run you a whopping 100-280 Euros a pair. For a cheaper pair, head to Vincenzo Faiella’s shop on Capri’s Via Vittoria Emanuele 49, where cloth and rope shoes and slippers start at 25 Euros. The Amalfi Coast is also known for the pottery made by local artisans (plates, bowls and the like), which they will often ship back to the States for free.
- Stay overnight on Capri. Capri is touristy, but with good reason. The shops in the Piazetta in Capri Town are elegant (Ferragamo, Prada and Fendi). The views, from all points, must be seen to be believed. The real pleasure on Capri, however, is when the day trippers leave. After 5 p.m., the pedestrian streets become less crowded. Walking arm-in-arm with your significant other along the narrow, garden-lined paths, gelato in hand, is endlessly romantic. If you time it just right, there are few things more beautiful than the full moon rising between the Faraglioni rocks, sparkling its light across the dark turquoise water.
- Visit Pompeii on the way to/from the Amalfi. The archeological site of ancient Pompeii is one of Italy’s top tourist attractions, and with good reason. It is the only place in the world where you can begin to understand, face to face, how the Romans of the first century lived: from brothels to posh dining rooms and bathing establishments. Pompeii is best visited in the morning, before the heat of the mid-day sun. At just 18 miles from the Naples airport, it is ideal to visit when you are either arriving or departing from you trip to the Coast. This will also help you limit your time on the windy roads of the Amalfi, which are tough for those of us who suffer motion sickness! Nota bene: Research your guide carefully, as they are pricey and don’t always add much value to the information you can get in your guidebook.
- Don’t stay in Positano. There is no better way to see Positano than by the sea. Arriving by ferry from Capri was breathtaking. Other than that, I would not recommend staying in Positano. There is really not much to do unless you like shopping and rocky beaches- or unless your accommodation has a nice pool (ours did not). We are not much into shopping, and we found the maze of shops and crowds near the beach part of town to be a bit of a turn-off in an otherwise charming setting. To avoid the crowds, towns like Praiano on the sea and Ravello in the hills are charming and less touristy.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
Facebook recently hired Nicola Mendelsohn, a 41-year-old British advertising executive and mother of four, as the new Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is a big job. She will manage a team of almost 1,000 people.
What is more amazing about her new position is that Mendelsohn arranged it so that she would have a four-day work week, so that she could spend more time at home with her kids, who range in age from 8 to 16.
Mendelsohn was previously the executive chairman of the ad agency Karmarama, where she has allowed 65 percent of the firm’s 180 employees to work remotely.
As Mendelsohn said recently: “The industry has to more readily welcome back its best women. I would much rather hire a talented woman on four days a week than lose her forever.”
These are important words for the 43 percent of women who have dropped out of the professional workforce to raise kids. For them, returning to work can be extremely difficult. Employers may be reluctant to hire moms who have been out for a number of years because their skills are rusty, or for fear that they may not be 100 percent committed to their jobs.
Flexible work options will define the future of the workplace. Corporate America will change — it is already happening — not just to accommodate the needs of working parents, but to accommodate the younger generations who have grown up on mobile devices. These young workers — the Millenials and beyond — don’t see the need to sit at a desk in an office from 9-5. They expect to be able to work at any time, any place. Just so long as the work gets done.
I am encouraged by companies like Facebook that are making an effort to bring women back and let them do their jobs without having to sacrifice their families. I am thankful for pioneering and talented women like Nicola Mendelsohn, who was willing to ask for what she needed to be the best at her job and at home. This is the way to get more women to the top.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
If your kids are like mine, they don’t take well to their parents giving them advice on much of anything — academics, athletics, you name it. In many ways, I am thankful for this. My kids are independent and have learned to do their homework on their own.
But I had to step in recently to help my middle schooler with a term paper that needed a lot of help. I started with my red pen, crossing out sentences and circling misspelled words. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. I ended up buying him a book on Amazon.com on “how to write a good term paper,” put it on his desk and hoped he would read it. So much for parental guidance.
According to Robert Menzimer, Executive Director of the Oakland, California-based Writer Coach program, which provides one-on-one tutoring to help students develop writing and critical thinking skills, many parents feel completely at sea about offering writing support. “Math assignments? No problem. Science projects? Absolutely. An essay for English? Lemme out of here!” says Menzimer.
And based on his many conversations over the years with adults at our volunteer recruiting booths, it’s not hard to see why: adults are often as freaked out about writing as kids are. “They (adults) are fraught with anxiety over what they perceive as their lack of writing skills,” says Menzimer, “and say they’ve been plagued by this anxiety their whole lives, including into their professions.”
So how do you help your child with their writing? Here are a few tips:
- Adopt a coach’s role. According to Menzimer, a coach’s role is different than that of a parent. As a parent, you need to stifle the urge to correct your child’s writing. Rather, start by asking her what she feels she needs help with. In so doing, you are validating her ability to do some critical analysis. Second, you are affirming that her opinion is just as important as anyone else’s. And third, you are establishing a reader/writer relationship with your child. You are fostering the idea that she needs your help not because her paper needs “correcting,” but because every writer needs a reader, a second set of eyes and ears on the work. That’s why professional writers have editors. Somewhere down there is your child’s response to the writing assignment. Your role is to help her find it.
- Practice, practice, practice. If your child wants to become a better basketball player or a guitarist, what do they do? Practice, practice, practice. Writing is no different. To become a better writer, your child needs to practice. Daily writing is the ideal; once a week is not enough. I always kept a journal when I was young. I used it to write down my thoughts, emotions, problems and ideas. Nobody read it but me. My journaling kept me “exercising” my writing skills every day and most likely led me to a career in writing.
- Read first, then write. As Stephen King writes in his book, On Writing, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” All the great authors of our time were also voracious readers. In order to write well, your child must first read, and read everything — from blogs and newspapers, to poetry and great works of literature. And no — tweets and texts don’t count.
- Let your kids see you write. As a parent, you are both a model and a teacher. If your kids never see you write (or read, for that matter), they get the impression that writing only happens at school. What you do is as important as what you say. Have children see you writing notes to friends, letters to business firms, perhaps stories to share with the children. From time to time, read aloud what you have written and ask your children their opinion of what you’ve said. If it’s not perfect, so much the better. Making changes in what you write confirms for the child that revision is a natural part of writing — which it is.
- Edit their writing. Teachers today are often overwhelmed with grading dozens of papers and may not have the time to correct every essay thoroughly. Your child will benefit from having you point out exactly where her sentences are choppy, what a run-on sentence means, and how to structure an argument. Let your child know that editing and re-writing are part of the writing process. Most papers need to be corrected and re-written to fix improper sentences and confusing passages.
- Hire a writing tutor. If your child doesn’t take well to tip #4, with you editing their writing, it may pay to hire a tutor. Besides paid professional tutors, you can look into free tutoring at your local library, or find high school or college students who charge less than professionals. Your school might be able to recommend one, as well.
- Be encouraging. As parents and writing coaches, we need to resist the tendency to focus solely on errors of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical aspects of writing. What matters most in writing is words, sentences, and ideas. According to Menzimer, identify three strengths in what your child has written, and point them out to her. Do this at the beginning, right after she’s read to you, and be specific about what you like. Describe it in terms of its impact on you as a reader, not as a parent, or a grade-giver. You do this because positive reinforcement is extraordinarily powerful in writer coaching. For every error the child makes, there are dozens of things he or she has done well. Your input only works if your child learns from it. It shouldn’t seem like a form of punishment.
- Ask your child to read his writing aloud, and listen without interrupting. According to Menzimer, you do this for several reasons. One is that you are demonstrating that her writing has value and you are paying close attention to it. Another reason is that as often as not, your young writer is thinking while she reads aloud what she’s written, and you don’t want to interrupt her thinking process. (A significant part of developing effective writing skills is developing effective critical thinking.) A third reason is that you are reinforcing your role as a coach, not someone who is passing judgment, dictating corrections, or assigning a grade.
- Practice free writing. This is one of my favorite techniques for getting started with a writing assignment. Free writing is analogous to the warm up you might do before exercising. There is no “correct” way to free write, so try a variation of these steps: Begin with a blank computer screen or a pad of paper. Set a time for yourself. Try five or ten minutes. (Longer times may not be that productive since free writing is a “warm up” for more focused writing). Put the topic of your paper at the top of a blank page. Write down things that are related to the topic. Don’t worry about order of ideas or grammatical correctness. When time is up, look over what you have written. Pull out ideas and phrases that can be used in your essay. Then try putting this free writing into outline form. If you were to use the writing to begin a paper, which points would you make first? Second?
- Make writing a priority. Work with your PTA and school board to make writing a high priority. Learn about writing and the ways youngsters learn to write. Encourage publication of student writing in school newspapers, literary journals, local newspapers, and magazines. See that the high school’s best writers are entered into the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Achievement Awards in Writing Program, the Scholastic Writing Awards, or other writing contests. Let everyone know that writing matters.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
“If I applied to Princeton today, I’d never get in.” That’s what I hear so many of my college classmates say these days, as the competition to get into selective colleges and universities increases and the pressure on applicants ramps up.
Headlines like “Colleges Send Record Number of Rejections” and “Teens Tyrannized by College Admissions Pressure” don’t ease rising tensions. And it’s not just in the U.S.– NPR reported on “The Pressure Cooker of College Admissions” in India and a New York Times headline read “In China, Families Bet It All on College for Their Children.”
As an alumni interviewer for Princeton, I have the opportunity to interview prospective students whose talent and intellect never cease to amaze. One of the students I interviewed had a 4.5 GPA, was the captain of her tennis team and a ranked USTA tennis player. Another was ranked #1 in her class of 460 students and was the captain of the soccer team. I could go on.
Guess what? None of them got in.
Today, unless you are a high school student who has started an Internet company, which you’ve brought public in a successful IPO — all while maintaining a 4.5 GPA — you can just about forget about the Ivy League. I say this in jest, of course, but you get the sentiment.
Princeton offered admission to just 7.29 percent of applicants this year. That translates to 1,931 students out of 26,498 applicants — the most selective admission process in Princeton’s history. Other top universities showed similarly low acceptance rates: Harvard admitted just 5.79 percent of applicants, Stanford 5.69 percent and Yale 6.72 percent.
On the west coast, UCLA extended offers of admission to 20 percent percent of the 80,000 students who applied, the lowest admission rate in its history. At UC Berkeley, 20.83 percent of 68,000 applicants were admitted. These are just a few of the colleges reporting record-breaking numbers of applications and record low rates of admission, continuing a trend that began a decade earlier.
What has happened to change the college admissions picture so dramatically? According to Sally Springer in her book, Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College, there are a few factors that explain why it’s so much harder to get into college these days:
- Larger applicant pool. The simple explanation for why it’s harder than ever to get into college is supply and demand. According to Education.com, there are more high school students competing for seats in the freshman class. After declining a bit in the late 1980s and early 1990s (thank God I graduated from high school in 1986!), the number of students graduating from high school in the U.S. has risen steadily each year since. In 1997 there were 2.6 million graduates; in 2003, there were 3 million; by 2009, the number of high school graduates had grown to 3.3 million. The numbers are projected to stay at or above 3.2 million at least until 2022. Part of this increase is the result of immigration, especially from Asia and Latin America, but most of the growth is due to the children of the Baby Boom generation that created the great demand for higher education in the decades after World War II. Known as the “echo boomers” or the Millennials, these children are part of the largest group of high school graduates ever.
- More high school grads applying to four-year colleges. Not only are more students graduating from high school each year, proportionally more of them want to go to college. A college education is increasingly seen as key to economic success in our society, just as a high school diploma was once the minimum requirement. Studies confirm the value of a college diploma in terms of lifelong earnings, and many desirable careers require education beyond the bachelor’s degree. As a result, more students are seeking to attend four-year colleges, including students from underrepresented minority groups whose college participation rate used to be low.
- Colleges marketing more extensively. Colleges themselves have increased their efforts to attract large, diverse pools of applicants. Many have mounted aggressive programs to spread the word about their offerings nationally and internationally. Through colorful brochures mailed directly to students, visits to high schools by admissions officers, college nights at local hotels, and information booths at college fairs, colleges are reaching out to prospective freshmen with unprecedented energy and at great expense. Started in earnest in the 1980s when the number of college-age students dropped temporarily, these marketing efforts have continued and expanded even as the number of students applying has soared. One result of all these efforts is that more and more college-bound students have become aware of, and are willing to seriously consider, colleges in parts of the country far from their homes.
- The Internet makes applying easier. The Internet also now plays a major role in how students approach college admissions. Although printed material and in-person presentations are still important ways for students to learn about different colleges, the Web is the top source of information for students who have grown up online. The Internet has also made it easier than ever to apply to college. Students no longer have to send for application forms, wait for them to arrive in the mail, and then fill them out by hand. Forms can be downloaded from almost all college sites or completed and submitted directly online. Simplifying things even more, more than 350 colleges now accept the Common Application, a standardized form that can be filled out once and submitted electronically or by mail to as many participating colleges as a student wishes. With admission harder to predict, students are now submitting more applications than ever. Sending eight to ten applications is now the norm at many private schools and high-performing public high schools — twelve to fifteen or more applications are not uncommon.
All these factors taken together — growth in the population of 18-year-olds, greater interest in college, sophisticated marketing efforts, and ease of access to information and the ability to apply made possible by the Internet — help explain why it is harder to get into college now than ever before.
The Good News
Despite all the social and demographic changes, there are ample spots for prospective college at many four-year colleges. The real crunch in admissions — the crunch that drives the newspaper headlines and the anxiety that afflicts many families at college application time — is limited to about one hundred colleges that attract applicants from all over the country and the world and that are the most selective in their admissions process.
Bill Mayher, a private college counselor and author of The College Admissions Mystique, summarizes the problem succinctly: “It’s hard for kids to get into colleges because they only want to get into colleges that are hard to get into.”
I have four kids– my boys are 14 and 12, my girls are 9 and 5. While my boys nearly drove me into the ground as toddlers with their endless physical energy and constant running around, the girls are currently winning the race to dig me an early grave with their ongoing girl drama and emotional highs and lows.
If I had to choose, I’d take the physical exhaustion of boys over the emotional exhaustion of girls ANY DAY.
I wasn’t expecting the girl drama to start at such a young age, however. This morning, my 5-year-old stopped me at the door of her preschool with tears running down her chubby little cheeks. She told me that she was scared to go to school, that her friends weren’t being nice, and that she wanted to go home.
Oy vey, I thought. Could the girl drama be starting so soon? She’s barely out of pull-ups.
I fully acknowledge that my preschooler is no saint. She is the youngest of four siblings, so she has learned survival skills to help her to be seen and heard in a family of six. She’s got a strong personality (she’s been called a “force of nature” more than once), which is both her greatest strength and her biggest weakness. She makes friends with everybody and is always up for fun. She’s also had more time-outs than my other three kids combined. My husband and I have worked hard to keep her on the straight and narrow — to prevent her from becoming the stereotypical spoiled youngest child.
So, when she told me she was having problems with her friends, my first thought (which I kept to myself) was, OK, what did you do to those poor girls?
I listened to my daughter and comforted her about her friendship problems. I talked to the teacher, who was completely on top of it and promised to talk to my daughter and keep an eye on the girls.
Five minutes after I left, I called the school to make sure my daughter was OK. As stubborn and strong as she is, she is still my baby. She rarely cries about going to school, and I was worried. The teacher reassured me that she was fine and that this was all part of growing up — learning how to socialize and be a good friend. That’s what school is all about, especially preschool.
But why, oh why, do girls have to be so darn complicated?
I grew up with two older brothers, so I always felt more comfortable around boys. In many ways, I felt like “one of the guys” through most of my grade school years. I wore my brother’s Levis and hung out with the neighborhood kids — mostly boys — almost every day after school. It wasn’t until late middle school that it occurred to me that boys were interesting for things other than games of Monkey in the Middle and flashlight tag.
I didn’t experience “girl drama” until the 6th grade, when my threesome of best friends imploded. Two of us would inevitably talk about the third girl when she wasn’t around. Play dates were arranged with just two of the girls, leaving the third feeling sad and left out. It just didn’t work.
Girl cliques were very much part of the scene by 6th grade. The “queen bee” of our middle school did her best to instill fear in others, thus securing her position as head of the hive. I remember the moms getting together to discuss what to do about this girl, who was taking girls down left and right with her acerbic tongue and policy of exclusion. I was fortunate enough to not be part of it all, keeping busy with my schoolwork, ballet and orchestra. I had my friends, and the cliquey girls didn’t bother us.
While I am by no means an expert on girl drama, I have learned a few things about girl friendships from my years of being a friend, as well as from observing the friendship ups-and-downs of my two daughters. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Groups of three, let them be. Translated: friendships that involve a group of three girls rarely work well. I used to run with a group of three girls back in middle school, and one of us would always feel left out. There was a lot of talking behind the back of the third person who wasn’t around. With girl threesomes, expect tears and drama. Somebody is bound to get hurt.
- School teaches kids socialization. School is not all about reading, writing and arithmetic. Teachers are there to help kids learn how to get along and play well. Ask your child’s teacher for help if she is experiencing friendship problems. Teachers are trained to deal with the social stuff, and schools are required to intervene if it becomes a bullying issue.
- While “relational aggression” peaks in middle school, it happens in preschool too. Consider yourself lucky if so-called relational aggression (“mean girl” behavior or bullying) is manifested at a young age. This gives you an opportunity to nip it in the bud. With luck and some age appropriate discussions about friendship, you can coach your child about proper behavior and treatment of friends. Don’t hesitate to involve the teacher if it’s happening at school.
- Teach empathy. Talk to your child every day and emphasize how important it is to think about how *everyone* feels. Is anyone sad? What can you do to make it better? How can you stand up for yourself when someone is being mean to you? How can you stand up for someone else? Work on her empathy skills. As my husband says to my girls, “Are you using your powers for good?” This will help your daughter develop a conscience.
- With girls, emotions run high and logic is often nowhere to be found. If you have a daughter, you get it. I don’t need to say more.
- Most girls are both the instigator and the victim at different times. It doesn’t help to label your child or another child as a “victim” or a “perpetrator,” a “queen bee” or a “mean girl.” Most kids play versions of each role at different times. Rather than labeling or judging, do what you can to curb the behavior and remind your daughter what friendship is all about.
From Sheryl Sandberg to Arianna Huffington, Marissa Mayer to Michelle Obama, I keep a running list of how today’s most successful women manage to excel in their professions and serve as role models for those of us who work “in the trenches.”
Which is why I was thrilled to read Sheryl Sandberg’s just-released book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Part autobiography, part feminist manifesto, the book is a call to action for women today to “lean in” and embrace their success.
At its core, Lean In is about pushing past fear.
For those who have been to Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, much of the advice she imparts in the book can be found plastered on office walls, on posters that read:
- “Move Fast and Break Things”
- “Done Is Better Than Perfect”
- “Fail Harder”
- “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” (Sandberg’s favorite)
“Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face,” she writes. “Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.”
According to Sandberg, one of the biggest barriers to women’s success is not external, or institutional, but internal: the voice inside our head that tells us “you aren’t good enough” or that urge us, as she puts it, to “leave before you leave.”
I recently had a crisis of confidence in my writing career, one that paralyzed me for weeks. I was criticized for a story I did on female bullying and middle-school cliques. Instead of standing up for my opinions, I cowered. I ended up retracting part of my story, something I had never done before, rather than standing tall and taking ownership of a point I believed to be valid.
Why did I react this way to criticism? Because as a woman, I wanted to be liked and accepted. I wanted to please, not ruffle feathers. I’m used to being the “good girl.”
Sandberg says hogwash to this.
One thing that is holding women back in their careers today, argues Sandberg, is the way that society views women — and how women then view themselves.
Boys, she says, are socialized to be assertive and aggressive. Girls? They are supposed to be kind and conciliatory. “Go to a playground,” Sandberg says. “Little girls get called ‘bossy’ all the time, a word that’s almost never used for boys. And that leads directly to the problems women face in the workforce. When a man does a good job, everyone says, ‘That’s great.’ When a woman does that same thing, she’ll get feedback that says things like, ‘Your results are good, but your peers just don’t like you as much’ or ‘maybe you were a little aggressive.’ “
The problem is simple. It’s not that men are over-confident. It’s that women aren’t self-confident enough. Sandberg doesn’t just feel this way. She cites data showing positive correlations between success and likability for men, and negative correlations between success and likability for women. “That means that as a man gets more successful, he is better liked by men and women, and as a woman gets more successful, she is less liked by men and women,” Sandberg explains.
Another thing holding women back, says Sandberg, is something social scientists call “the stereotype threat.”
“‘The stereotype threat’ means that the more we’re aware of a stereotype, the more we act in accordance with it,” Sandberg explains. Stereotypically, girls are supposed to be conflict-averse. They are relationship builders. The result? Girls aim too often to please. Those who don’t are seen as aggressive and rude — unfeminine, even.
This stereotyping is holding girls back in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields, explains Sandberg. “Stereotypically we believe that girls are not good at math. Therefore, girls don’t do well at math, and it self-perpetuates. If you ask a girl right before she takes a math test to check off ‘M’ or ‘F’ for male or female, she does worse on that test. The reason there aren’t more women in computer science is there aren’t enough women in computer science.”
Lean In paints a picture of an exceptionally successful woman who admits to lacking confidence at various points in her career. Sandberg shares her human side, including a fair number of stumbles and lesser known tidbits from her life. Did you know she was an aerobics instructor in the 1980s — big hair, silver leotard and all?
She writes about “feeling like a fraud”– that insidious notion, felt largely by women but men as well, that success is due not to her own merit, but to some sort of gross oversight or accident.
So I am not alone.
For me, Lean In was a reminder of a few important things: first, that it’s okay to make mistakes — success is only born after many failures; second, to stand tall in the face of criticism; and third, to continue to speak up about issues that matter.
And one other thing — the next time my five-year old daughter is called “bossy” at the playground, instead of reprimanding her and telling her to play “nicely,” I will respond with a “yes, thank you.”
In a recent blog post, I used the terms “queen bee” and “mean girl” as a jumping off point to discuss the dangerous dynamics of middle school girl cliques. I’ve always been fascinated by the cultural phenomenon of female cliques. I’m curious why girls — and women — feel the need to belong to and be accepted by social groups. And why they feel the need to exclude others when they have “found” their place in a certain group.
To me, it’s a sociological wonder.
After posting the story, I got an email from a friend that was an important reminder — and wake-up call — for me. She reminded me of the danger of labeling.
The “mean girl” and “queen bee” labels have become a common part of our lexicon ever since Rosalind Wiseman published her book, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. The problem of “mean girl” bullying has been around since the beginning of time.
But what my friend so rightly pointed out was that using such stereotypes to label girls and their behavior — especially in the fragile middle school years — can have detrimental effects on a girl’s self-esteem and self-image.
Regardless of the label, be it “smart” or “pretty” or “popular” or “mean,” the truth is that we, as humans, are a combination of many different character traits. And despite what my mother told me, I do believe that people’s characters can change over time.
As I said in my story, we are all “mean girls” at times. We all do things in life that can be considered “mean girl” behavior. Have I ever excluded a woman from a party or event? Heck yeah. Although I like to think that my intentions are usually in the right place, I can’t claim to have never hurt someone — even those I love dearly. Hey, I was even accused of being a “mean girl” myself by writing a story that analyzed mean girl behavior!
I was labeled as a kid. I wasn’t a “mean girl,” but I was the “smarty pants” who got straight A’s and did her homework every night without being told. I didn’t like being labeled. I don’t think anyone does.
What do you think? Is it OK to call out a “mean girl”? Or is it superficial and unjust labeling?
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer set off a contentious debate this week with her decision to stop allowing employees to work from home. Proponents and critics of workplace flexibility are weighing in from both sides– proponents arguing that flexibility increases productivity and profitability and improves work-life balance; critics complaining that telecommuting hurts company culture and stifles creativity.
The real reason we’re taking note of Mayer’s comments is because she’s a woman — and because there was a lot of attention paid to the fact that Yahoo hired a pregnant woman as its CEO last year. The assumption when she took the reins was that a working woman/mother would be more sympathetic to workers who desire greater flexibility.
But such was not the case.
In a widely leaked internal memo attributed to Yahoo human resources head Jacqueline Reses, the Internet company announced that it would end all work-from-home agreements with employees beginning in June.
“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” Reses said in the memo. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
Unlike most of us real-life wahoos, Chief Yahoo Mayer was able to build a nursery near her office when she returned to work two weeks after having her baby. Not every new mother has the means to do so.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Mayer’s decision, the truth is that telecommuting is a benefit that is widely enjoyed by both men and women and has helped refashion the modern workplace. According to the Telework Research Network, somewhere between 20-30 million people work from home at least one day a week. An estimated 3.1 million Americans (not including those who are self-employed) work from home full time — about 2.5 percent of working Americans. And while some thought telecommuting would decline during the current recession, we learned the opposite was the case — telecommuting grew by 11.4 percent from 2008 to 2011.
Studies show that companies that offer flexible work arrangements — including telecommuting, compressed work weeks and job sharing — have happier and more productive workers, and a stronger bottom line.
Cisco Systems, the San Jose-based maker of networking systems for the Internet, was one of the first companies in Silicon Valley to implement a formalized teleworking program back in 1993. Telecommuters at Cisco report having an extra 30 minutes of work time each day, which had previously been spent in the car, driving to the office. According to a company spokesperson, the teleworking policy has provided significant cost savings to Cisco — an estimated $195 million dollars in increased productivity in 2003.
For companies with a global presence, the benefits are clear. Dallas-based Texas Instruments offers an “ad hoc” flexibility policy to most of its workers (except those in manufacturing) and provides the tools necessary for employees to set up an office at home or another remote location.
“Working from home allows me to better coordinate timetables with overseas teams,” explains a Texas Instruments employee who works with teams across different time zones. “It also allows me to avoid the busy commute hours, so I can focus on productivity and performance instead of ‘face time.’”
The federal government has also jumped on the flexible workplace bandwagon. In March of 2010, the president and first lady hosted a Forum on Workplace Flexibility, in which they invited business leaders and experts to the White House to discuss the economic benefits of flexible work arrangements. The result was a report issued by the Council of Economic Advisers which showed that the adoption of flexible workplace policies could save as much as $15 billion a year through greater productivity, lower turnover and reduced absentee hours.
With most families today having both parents working, the pressure to balance work and family responsibilities is growing. A 2010 study by Georgetown University Law Center found that 92 percent of workers in the U.S. don’t have enough workplace flexibility to meet the needs of their families. Forty percent of workers polled say that their working conditions and hours negatively affect the health of their kids — for example, they miss children miss doctor’s appointments or don’t receive treatment in the early phase of an illness.
According to Jennifer Owens, editorial director for Working Mother magazine, both mothers and fathers need to work remotely at times. She believes Yahoo may need to rethink its policy.
“It’s really a step backward for their company,” she said. “I think it’s very disappointing. Taking away all work-from-home options as a blanket policy sends a message of distrust.”
Of course, not all industries allow for telecommuting. Companies in the retail and food service sectors require employees to be present during regular business hours to provide customer service. A salesperson at the Gap, or a wait person at the Cheesecake Factory, for example, don’t have a choice to work from home.
But in Silicon Valley, where online collaboration and connectivity are part of the culture, certainly telecommuting and flexible work arrangements should be considered an option.
As Catholic cardinals from around the world gather to elect a new pope, they face the growing ire of an international community that has lost confidence in the moral integrity of the Church. New details are emerging every day about Catholic priests who have committed acts of child sexual abuse and a Church hierarchy that has for decades worked to protect them.
Amid all the names, the one that has attracted the most anger in the U.S. is Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles. Last month, a court ordered the release of files relating to more than 120 priests accused of child sex abuse which showed that Mahony, along with other officials, had protected the clerics. He was publicly reprimanded by his successor and stripped of his public and administrative duties.
The Catholic Church is in crisis, no doubt. The next pope will be bogged down for years in ongoing worldwide investigations, civil litigation and criminal prosecutions of Church officials. He faces the even tougher job of regaining the diminishing trust of many Catholics who have left the Church out of frustration and disgust.
While the media has chosen to focus on the wrongdoings of the Catholic Church, the problem of child sexual abuse — and its cover up — is by no means unique to this one religion. Over the past year, we have seen evidence of several other organizations where moral integrity is a given (including the Boy Scouts of America, Penn State University and an Orthodox Jewish community in London) fall prey to widespread child sexual abuse. Like the Catholic Church, these institutions chose to protect themselves and their own image rather than the lives of innocent victims.
In 2012, internal documents from the Boy Scouts of America revealed more than 125 cases in which men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Boy Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators. Similar to the Catholic Church’s lists of pedophile priests, the Boy Scouts of America kept a list of “perversion files,” which listed the names of Scout leaders suspected of abuse. In at least 50 cases, the Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover they had re-entered the organization and were accused of molesting again.
In 2011, a conspiracy of silence that protected longtime Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was broken when Sandusky was accused of sexually assaulting at least eight underage boys. An investigation commissioned by the school board, and conducted by former FBI head Louis Freeh, found that university president Graham Spanier, head football coach Joe Paterno and athletic director Tim Curley had known about allegations of child abuse on Sandusky’s part as early as 1998, and were complicit in failing to disclose them.
Just last month, British TV aired a documentary titled “Britain’s Hidden Child Abuse,” which showed a video of a senior rabbi in an Orthodox Jewish community north of London warning an alleged victim of child sex abuse not to go to the police. Rabbi Ephraim Padwa was secretly filmed telling the victim that going the police is an act of mesira — a Jewish law forbidding reporting a Jew to a non-Jewish authority. The documentary uncovers 19 different alleged cases of child sex abuse across England- not one reported to the police.
A common theme in all of these cases is that the institutions involved chose to deal with the sexual abuse “in house” rather than going to law enforcement. The result? Lies, cover ups and an ongoing trail of abuse that continued far longer than it ever should have.
To regain trust and moral authority, these organizations need to handle child sexual abuse with transparency and honesty, instead of secrecy and deception. Secrecy is toxic, and in it, child abuse flourishes. They need to follow the mandatory child abuse reporting law, which requires adults working with children — in the role of teacher, coach, clergy and more — to report allegations of sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement. This includes abuse that is suspected, not confirmed.
Penn State instituted such a law in October, which holds universities and individuals financially and criminally liable for failure to report suspected abuse. Under the law, colleges and universities that “knowingly and willfully” fail to report known or suspected child abuse or prevent another person from doing so will be slapped with a $1 million fine for each failure.
Whoever the Catholic Church elects as its new pope, his first order of business should be to tackle the child sexual abuse problem head-on. First and foremost, he needs to revise Church law and Vatican protocols so that secrecy no longer surrounds child sex abuse. Secondly, he needs to follow the law of the land and require church officials to report clergy accused of sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement. And third, he needs to retain independent and outside professionals — non-clerics — who do not have a requirement of obedience to the pope and bishops, to conduct investigations into child sex crimes by clergy.
Then and only then will the Church and its leader regain the trust of its people and be able to move in a positive direction.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of ‘TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood,’ chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a crisis counselor at a rape crisis center where she did outreach and education on child sexual abuse.
I hit a few nerves with my recent post, “The Rise and Fall of the Mean Girl,” in which I discussed the insidious nature of middle school cliques and “mean girl” bullying. The emails I received came from moms whose children had been the victim of mean girl antics; young girls who had been alienated, cyber-bullied and socially ostracized by mean girls; and a few angry moms who chastised me for “outing” their child as the “mean girl” of the story.
As for this last group, let me clarify. The story never mentioned any girl in particular. If you are worried that your child might be a mean girl/bully, I am not the one you should be talking to.
Thankfully, the problem of bullies and mean girls is not being ignored. It’s been all over the news — in books, movies, songs and more. In Rachel Crow’s new video, Mean Girls, the 14-year-old “X-Factor” sensation takes a stand against bullying. The video, which has gone viral with over five million views on YouTube, shows Rachel and real, everyday girls being bullied by their peers. Instead of remaining silent, averting their eyes, ignoring the bullying or being passive, they take a stand. The girls hold their palms up into the air with the words “Be Kind” written on them. Rachel repeats the verse, “Mean girls, you no longer run my world.”
The video has a powerful message at a time when kids really need to hear it. Her mission with the video is to show people that she can be strong and make a change, and that no one deserves to be bullied.
The important lesson I’ve learned in researching mean girl bullying is that parents — both of the bully and the victim — do not always realize how serious the bullying is, and often ignore it. Teachers and school administrators know it’s happening as well, but because mean girl antics are often covert, they, too, fail to address the problem. One teacher I spoke with told me he knows it happens, but most often it’s outside the classroom. All he sees are the effects — crying girls, despondent behavior and poor grades.
Women and girls have faced mean girl bullying for generations and still, it’s getting worse. Take notice. Take a stand. And talk about it. Share your experience of bullying or being bullied with the next generation.