What is The Orange Line™?

The Orange Line represents a career path characterized by both a full and enjoyable career as well as a robust, integrated life.  Instead of a singular focus on work, the Orange Line individual turns early career traction into a launching pad for a robust, whole life with enriching and fun work, family, and life activities.  Orange Line individuals take a conscious approach, learning to pace themselves early on, taking breaks and enhancing their life with activities and people outside of work.  The Orange Line worker does not need to choose work or life; they choose both and live both fully.

What is The Feminine Filter™?

The Feminine Filter is a system of adopted beliefs and made-up rules that distract or prevent women from pursuing their vocation.  Women have internalized the ideal woman to be someone who follows these rules: Do it all, Look good, and Be nice.  In pursuit of this ideal, women have bought in to some basic assumptions about how the world works, causing their view to be “filtered” from reality.  In our book, we highlight these assumptions and teach women six skills to help overcome them so they can clear the Feminine Filter from their view.

Are we just blaming the victims?


No, we are not blaming anyone.  We simply recognize that blaming the system hasn’t made it change.  And, despite our best efforts and wishes, we can’t control how others behave.  Like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, we believe women have had the power to make change all along – it is simply inside of ourselves.   When we exercise our power and reshape ourselves, everything changes.

But don’t we still need to change the system? 

Yes.  The system needs to change.  That’s where we started.  We looked for the levers and at the attempts to fix this from the past.  Organizations need to change, men need to change, and women need to change.  We chose to focus on the change women need to make.  We think we have provided something easier and more effective than a legislative agenda or rigid policies: By each woman working on her own development and claiming her power, she can rise through organizations and make day to day changes that will help women behind her avoid the same barriers and contribute to lasting cultural change.   Systems are merely a collection of individuals. To change systems, we feel you first need to change the individuals.

Won’t things just change on their own?

No, because the big secret that women have learned is the meritocracy doesn’t exist.  The fact is, once a group of individuals have attained power, they tend to build a system around themselves to keep it.  Government and corporate leaders are not going to give up their power just because it would be better for their organizations to do so.  They just keep reinforcing the system to protect themselves.  And they are especially not going to change simply because someone mandated it: They will just find ways to work around it.  The system won’t change until people who feel differently get into power and change it.  Einstein said we can’t solve the problem with the same thinking we used when we created it.  Men created the system and they are not going to be able to change it.  Women need to be the change.

So, how does your book help women change themselves?

We share day to day stories and examples from women who have struggled so we can discuss what has worked and what has not.  We highlight when women have limited themselves and when they have broken through.  We call out when something doesn’t make sense and illustrate when swapping gender changes the whole perspective.  These inspirational anecdotes make change possible to everyone, not just the superwomen, because women can identify with each other.  By sharing these stories, we give women permission to try something small that can make a big difference for themselves.

Aren’t you just creating a new “Ideal Woman”, one who strives for power and doesn’t clean her house or volunteer anymore?

No.  Instead of modeling a new ideal woman or providing a new set of rules for women to follow, our book helps women remove externally-imposed limitations to pursuing their passions.  We also reveal the key skills they need to build to do it; skills that will also make them more effective leaders.    The only “ideal” in our belief system is that women are important and free to pursue their vocation.  How they choose to do that is up to them.

What about work-flexibility?  Aren’t you letting employers off the hook?

No.  What we are saying is often we misdiagnose the problem and make it about getting work flexibility (the employer’s problem) when it isn’t.  For example, a woman says, “I need to come to work late and leave work early because I need to drop off my child at 9am and pick up my child at 5:30pm every night. Therefore, I can only work part time.”  The real problem is the child needs to be dropped off sometime after 9am and picked up sometime before 5:30pm but by coupling that with the “I need to come to work late and leave work early because I need to pick up my child” part, it has now become a work flexibility problem.  Her solution is limited: She needs to limit her work hours to the daycare work hours.  This can be bad for the employer and career-limiting for the woman.  What needs to happen is the artificial constraints need to be de-coupled from the real problem so that more solutions are available.  “The child needs to be dropped off after 9am and picked up before 5:30pm, how can we make this happen?”  Now there are options:  The couple could arrange to have someone else drop-off and pick-up the child, like a local high school student looking to earn extra cash.  The child could transition sometime during the day to a different daycare service or an in-home nanny with extended hours.  The woman could trade off with four other parents to create a rotating weekly car pool.  She could also arrange with her spouse that he drops off each morning and she picks up every night, so that each of them could work a full day on an off-set schedule.  We think fewer women will need “work-flexibility” when they change their perspective and learn to distinguish the real problem.

You give examples of women who draw boundaries at work and ask for a lot of support at home.  Won’t suddenly pushing back get women fired or cause marital strife?

We advocate women step up and make themselves an important, equal part of every relationship, whether it is with an employer or within the family.  By all objective standards, this is a completely fair thing to do, something they have been entitled to do all along.  It is merely an internal change in mindset.  Once the shift is made, we expect women will then begin to negotiate day to day decisions very differently.  They may still work late when required, but it won’t be just to show someone they are committed.  They may still be the family member who makes all of the meals, but it won’t be because it is their responsibility alone.  Choices like that become intentional.

It becomes really difficult for anyone to purposely hold themselves back or negotiate an unfair deal once they realize that is what they are doing.  Orange Line women will no longer be doing an unfair share of the housework, for example, because they realize this is holding them back.  So yes, this transition may be more difficult for those who have not been used to interacting with women as equals or for those who have not yet shed the Feminine Filter.   But, we don’t advocate anything other than fairness for all parties, so honest relationships, those built upon equality, should actually get stronger, not weaker.  At work, an empowered employee provides better results for the organization.  At home, an empowered wife and mother is a happier and more effective family member.

How can men help women live the Orange Line™?

Men can help by understanding our barriers and holding us accountable when we are succumbing to them.  For example, a key message in the book is about speaking directly about what we are thinking and asking for what we need.  If men don’t understand, they can use direct speak to help to clarify their understanding rather than just letting it go.  Men can also notice the assumptions being enacted and name them.  For example, if a woman chooses to work through lunch and not go out with the team, a man could name that and identify the benefits of going out.  Men can also take more responsibility for the home – as Sandberg suggests, men can “lean in” at home.  They don’t need to wait for women to ask; men can begin to identify the areas in which they are not taking responsibility and start to do so. Finally, and most importantly, men can begin to recognize their own filter and change their underlying assumptions.

How can women focus on results, when everyone else in the organization is just so focused on time?

We have found that employees who are valuable, credible, and get good results seem to get as much time flexibility as they desire.  The focus needs to be on what value they offer to the organization.  Sometimes, women need to train their superiors, though.  1) First, they need to stop asking permission for anything related to time, which simply relinquishes power over their own time management, and instead inform the organization when and where they plan to be working.

2) Second, they need to work when work is needed.  That may mean traveling on a weekend to meet with a client, staying late to take an overseas call, or capturing a creative energy burst in the middle of the night.  They can’t make working extra time an automatic “no”.

3) Third, they need to stop working when it has become counterproductive.  That means they need to leave when they are tired, ineffective, or when being there is just for show.

4) Fourth, they need to call out when others around them are working against this system; not in a gossipy way, but using what we call “Direct Speak.”  For example, “Are you asking me to be here at 8:30am every morning because we have actual work that can only be done at that time or to reassure you that we are all working hard?  If I were to come in at 9:00am and bring you a list of everything I am working on, could that achieve the same thing for you?”

5) Fifth, they need to avoid holding others to a time standard or gossiping about how others manage their time.  This includes logging how much time others are out of the office and focusing on the reasons for their absence.

We’ve all seen people who do this well and people who don’t get it.  Those who don’t get it tend to be more dogmatic and inflexible.  Sometimes you just have to be at work.  And sometimes you just have to take care of yourself.  Maturity is knowing when and how to do this.

Your book challenges some key assumptions, the first one being “Women are primarily responsible for home and family.”  But isn’t this true?

We realize this is probably the most earth-shattering assumption we could possibly question because it seems to be the basis for justifying most of the existing systemic limitations on women.  It’s why affordable daycare is seen as a women’s issue.  It’s why cleaning and baby products are marketed to women.  It’s used to justify intensifying men’s careers (breadwinner) and minimizing women’s (mommy track).  And the big secret is: It’s just not true.   We are all responsible for taking care of our families and ourselves.

The best part is that once women clear this part of the filter away, there is a palpable relief: We don’t have to do it all!  Decision-making gets a whole lot easier when this assumption is challenged.

But aren’t women just better at managing the household and family?  Isn’t it biology that makes them the natural choice for taking care of the kids?  Aren’t we wired differently so that men are aggressive hunters and women are nurturing caregivers?

We think the research and data around the male versus female biology stuff is self-fulfilling.  For example, if you tell girls they aren’t good at math, it gives them a reason for why math is hard and an excuse to give up.  If you tell women they are better nurturers, they feel validated when the child comes to them and they have an excuse to become the parenting expert.  The reality is we could get statistics to justify just about anything in life, and most of these data seem geared to protect the status quo more than anything.  In our interviews, we found many women who were afraid to admit out loud that their own parenting experiences did not conform to the stereotypes.  The reality is, there is probably more variation in the level of these skills between individuals than across the gender divide.

There is no gene for cleaning toilets, nor for raising strong kids.  Swaddling and disciplining and changing diapers are SKILLS, just like managing people and working with spreadsheets.  Women have proven that there is no job they can’t do because of their gender and the same applies to men.

But the bigger question is about how this data gets used to justify pigeon-holing women into a single vocation when men are free to be anything they want to be.   That would be like saying that “Men are bigger and stronger and should therefore all be farmers and raise our food so we don’t starve.”  Most people would find that generalization insulting and limiting, right?  Women need to understand this “women are better at nurturing” assumption at face value and give themselves permission to reject it.

Isn’t it more efficient and beneficial for everyone if women manage the household so men can focus on maximizing their careers? What if he makes more money?

From an economic point of view, the law of specialization and trade says it is most efficient if everyone focuses on what they do best and trades with everyone else for what they do best.  If what a particular woman is best at doing is cleaning houses then the most efficient thing for her to do is become a housecleaner and make money to trade with everyone else for the goods and services she needs to live.   Even if a woman is better than her husband at cleaning, unless that is the best thing she can possibly do, it is suboptimal for everyone for her to give up a better vocation to do it.

Further, it is extremely risky for a women to sacrifice her own earning power to invest in another person’s career, whether a spouse or a child’s.  These are assets she does not legally “own”, nor can she lay claim to at a future date.   It doesn’t matter who makes more money, either.  It is about each individual making the most money they possibly can with the skills and passions they have.

But for some families, having both parents work is very stressful on the family.  Wouldn’t it just be easier for everyone if the women backs off her career and stays home?

First, stress will always be present, regardless of whether or not women are working.  That’s life.  We all need to learn to manage it.  Often stress is actually greater at home, where you may have fewer tangible rewards and financial resources.  Second, unless you are independently wealthy, everyone has to earn a living.  Stuff happens; men die, accidents happen, and couples get divorced.  Women live a long time and they need to be able to support themselves long term.  It is very risky for anyone to leave their career at any time, and extremely difficult to re-engage after being out.

In our book, we reframe “opting out” as taking a sabbatical.  In a sabbatical, women (or men) can leave a job temporarily, but they are responsible for keeping up their contacts, skills, and investment plan during their time off so they minimize any negative impact to their career.  They are ready to re-enter at any time, should circumstances change.

But we also caution women to get to the bottom of why they think they will have less stress without work, why they have to be the ones to deal with the family’s stress, and why they can’t get the kind of support they need so they can live a full, integrated life that includes their work and their family.  Once they figure out how to share responsibility for the family and get equal support for their professional dreams, this “stress” seems to become more manageable for everyone.

You suggest women “Build themselves a support system.”  But support often costs money.  Daycare, for example, is very expensive and often is more than a woman makes.  How can a woman get support they need so they can work?

First, daycare and housekeeping are not just for women.  We only think it is the women’s problem when we assume the family is her primary responsibility.  Both parents need daycare and housekeeping so they can work.  So, comparing the cost to a woman’s salary is not a fair comparison.  Second, these things are a career investment, just like going to college was, that will pay off tremendously in the future.  And it is a temporary investment, the cost of which declines over time as children grow.  So, comparing it to the cost of today’s earnings is also not a valid comparison.   Third, supply follows demand.  As more people demand high quality, affordable daycare, more will become available.  It doesn’t help matters when women step out of the workforce to do this job for free; instead it continues to devalue the work.

The single women we interviewed did not have a choice but to build themselves a support system because earning money and investing in their careers were necessities.  They managed to figure it out.  Ironically, women at the poorest end of the spectrum are also working and have their children in daycare, often in a neighbor’s house.   There is no such thing for anyone as not being able to afford to work.

We have heard a lot of debate surrounding the “Can you have it all?” question.  Some say you can’t have it all at the same time, others say it is impossible to have it all and we have to make tradeoffs.  So, from your perspective, does living the Orange Line™ mean you can have it all?

By “Have it all”, if you mean “Can women have both a career and family?”, then yes, men do and women can, too.  We just need to change the limitation that for women having a career and a family means a heck of a lot more work than it does for a man; one because she has to work harder at work to achieve the same results as a man, and two because she is still doing the majority of the work at home.  Men with power careers get to “have a family” because they are generally supported by a woman who has given up her career.  When she sheds this limitation, a woman can have it all, just like a man.  And systems to support the two of them will get better (and more financially rewarding) for the providers.  There is a deeper thing here, though.  In our Orange Line Model, everyone can “have it all”.  It means career, life, and self.  At any moment in time, it is not a matter of substituting one for the other, but rather a prioritization process in terms of how to invest your energy. These things are all equally important to us: our career, our life, our self.

This seems so hard.  Do you think woman can realistically do this?

Absolutely!  While we feel we are advocating a revolutionary change, we think it is extremely achievable because everyone only has to change a little for the results to be dramatic.  Even taking a small step, such as learning to recognize the Feminine Filter™ at work and operating consciously can change someone’s life.  Further, we don’t advocate perfection or a new “Ideal Woman”, so there is no new standard we will fail to live up to.  And without a new ideal, we shed that competition to achieve it.   This journey is personal.  We are free to practice, mess up, and try again.  And we are free to support each other in a non-judgmental way because guilt can’t hurt us.

When you discredit perfection, aren’t you advocating mediocrity?

Yes, but only at stuff that doesn’t matter.  We are advocating being mediocre at cleaning the kitchen floor and ordering food for the office.  We think matching napkins to cups at a kid’s birthday party is something that can be under-achieved.  We think this will free up everyone’s creative energy for the important stuff; making innovative breakthroughs, launching companies to employ the next generation, setting global standards for quality and ethics, or influencing policies that help families.  How can women think bigger when they expend energy obsessing about the little things?  We advocate questioning what level needs to be delivered on everything before investing time and creative energy into it.

Is it different for single moms?

Not really:  They may not have another adult at home to lean on but they still need to figure out how to build their support system and ensure they are an important part of the equation.  The only difference is they really don’t have a choice whether or not to work.

What about men?

We interviewed women but we think this applies for men, too.  We all know men who love their work and want to have a rich, full life as well.  The Orange Line™ is available for them, too.  But they have a filter as well.  Each of our assumptions has a corollary for men.  For example, the assumption that women are primarily responsible for home and family also assumes men are primarily responsible for earning a living.  This limits men from living their Orange Line™ because it puts unnecessarily pressure on their career focus.  Many men describe playing it safe, avoiding risks at work because the family so desperately depends upon their income.  They are afraid to ask for flexibility, pursue out of the box thinking, or make mistakes for fear of losing their job or sidetracking their careers.   When this is reframed – Everyone is responsible for earning a living, the pressure is removed.  Can you just imagine what we could all achieve at home and at work if men could live the Orange Line™ as well???

How will this influence the next generation?

We think this is where our current generation is letting our kids down.  Women “doing it all” is demonstrating to our girls that they have a tiring, burdensome responsibility and many of them are “leaning back” before they even get out of school.  Our boys are learning that while dad “helps more” around the house than ever before, it is a “nice to have”, not an actual responsibility.  We don’t think current role modeling is having a positive influence.  What we found in our study was that for women whose mom’s worked, they had less of an issue with integrating work and life.  This suggests we need to find a way to facilitate women working without “doing it all”, pursing their vocations without self-limitation, and sharing equal responsibility for the home.

What’s the difference between Lean In and The Orange Line?

The Orange Line takes Sandberg’s book even further. We describe a whole new career model, The Orange Line, where women can pursue their purpose and live a full, integrated life without their limiting assumptions, which we call the Feminine Filter™. We provide a framework to;

1) Help women recognize when this assumption points them to a self-limiting decision

2) Adjust their perspective, and

3) Unleash a host of new alternative choices. We help women remove guilt instead of stifling it. We help them use their power instead of contemplating their weaknesses. And we help them feel more confident that they are indeed entitled to pursue their purpose.

Sandberg shares examples of how she has used her high position to ignite a change in the system. We share examples of 118 college-educated women from all levels; stories that can inspire every one of us to make small,incremental changes every day that will make a big difference over our lifetime.

Our website is a great place where women can go to share their anecdotes and “Direct Speak” experiences so others can borrow them, too.  http://www.OrangeLineCareer.com

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