Marissa Mayer does it. Condeleezza Rice admits to it; so does Meg Whitman. And while I suspect Sheryl Sandberg indulges, in Lean In, her bestselling new non-fiction grenade on girl-power in high corporate places, the topic never comes up.
The topic is prayer—God's finger on the scales of life balance—and while I understand why Sandberg might leave it in the closet for this book, for Christians, in this case Christian women professionals, no conversation about real power or genuine influence can go without it.
I speak now from my own needs and my own path through college and business school, corporate America, marriage, a divorce, single parenting, remarriage/instant family-blending, and life's inevitable blindsides when I say that where a woman stands—in heels or otherwise—profoundly links to an act in private, in her closet, under her breath, mentally, in the car, and in groups of likeminded believers.
If I didn't know from Christ's example and guidance, I'd know from my own stumbling that in the plate glass halls of power only God can pull us to the right side of the unseen lines between using people as objects and seeing them as people... between human aggression and divine boldness... between risk and recklessness. Business has exposed me to some exceptional thinkers, and several stand out, but only prayer can bring wisdom that transcends human decision-making. Prayer for humility (and for the desire for it) is the only effective means I know to erase lines between leadership and the life of a servant.
Sheryl Sandberg, 43 years old, is COO of a globe-spinning communications revolution, and though we haven't met, I believe I would like her. As Facebook's COO, through breakthroughs and breakdowns, she's one for the history books. As a woman at the tip of a major corporate cone, she also urges other women to go higher, and that's impressive.
Yes, God calls many women to full-time life at home. Some he calls to singleness. I believe He also calls some of us both to family and to the marketplace, medicine, politics, law, engineering, art… and I believe that call came to me. And so I believe that by excellence and ethics, by example, ever imperfectly, and through ingenuity and the joy of using God-given skills, men and women both can be salt and light across the world's many workplaces.
Did I say life balance is easy? Did I say I got it right, or that I've reached enlightenment? I hope you hear none of that. Like large sticky notes on my days, my roles at home, at work, in parenting, and as a wife and friend remind me, as the saying goes, that there is a God and it's not me. But sticky notes notwithstanding, I believe God wants me to share what I know.
In her book, Sandberg urges women to form groups to encourage each other to move up. Since I wrote Work, Love, Pray—a Christian treatise on the woman of God and the workplace—I've been privileged to see 4word groups form for the same reason, this time building community on work and faith.
If you're a young woman with some sense of a call to career, know that your vocation is an invitation to know God deeply, to build community, and to step out in faith, and in increasingly new ways. Sheryl Sandberg is right to say women are overdue to lose their fear; maybe another time she'll mention who makes that possible.
Diane Paddison is chief strategy officer of Cassidy Turley and a nationally recognized corporate leader; she also is author of Work, Love, Pray and founder of 4wordwomen.org.