XX in Tech

Former Zuck Speechwriter Kate Losse Refuses to Lean In

"Silicon Valley 'revolution' at its finest."
Ms. Losse.

Ms. Losse.

Here’s the thing about Lean In: Your reaction to the book depends, in no small part, on whether you think a hard-charging life filled with work is a worthwhile goal. If you have little interest in the boardroom, this is not the manifesto you were searching for. And if you’re outright suspicious of corporate America’s seemingly endless demands for more work on less pay, Lean In is your new worst frenemy.

Kate Losse was an early Facebook employee who worked her way from a customer support position to a gig as Mark Zuckerberg’s speechwriter. Last year she published a memoir of her time at the company, The Boy Kings, which covered those heady days of rapid growth. Much of the press coverage focused on a couple of anecdotes about Ms. Sandberg and how she cleaned up the worst of the antics.

Well, it appears Ms. Losse’s time in the frat house gives her a unique vantage point on Lean In. She writes at Dissent:

By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the workplace without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them.

In fact, Ms. Losse compares the Lean In “movement” itself to Facebook’s tendency to clone or acquire potential threats (think Snapchat and Poke):

By launching a feminist platform, Sandberg is able to contain the broader threat that a feminist critique poses to Facebook’s business, simultaneously generating more power for herself and her organization — Silicon Valley “revolution” at its finest. This maneuver, as I learned in my years at Facebook, is how the game is played, and both Sandberg and Zuckerberg play it well.

The question for the rest of us, according to Ms. Losse: “What does the game do for those not at or near the top? Are workers playing or are we getting played?”

This reading seems a little harsh. We picture Mark Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg less as robber barons out to screw the 99 percent, and more like exceptional workaholics who aren’t especially interested in talking about the plight of the worker.

But Lean In–which this reporter enjoyed!–is tailored to suit-clad, fresh-faced Ivy League grads with their feet planted firmly on the path to the corner office.  If you’re looking to carve out any other kind of life–whether it’s as a family-focused homemaker or as a singleton in search of actual work-life balance, then all Ms. Sandberg has to say is good luck and God bless.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com