Borrowing from Chelsea Clinton’s blurb on the back of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg uses her to challenge women to live the lives they want and not the life that is expected of them. This entails not only claiming leadership positions in the workplace, but also being partners, true partners in the home with their mates when it comes to childcare.
Sandberg admits that she doesn’t know how to classify her book. It’s neither completely self-help nor memoir, though it incorporates both personal anecdotes and advice on how women can lead better and more balanced lives, or at least try. I appreciate her candor on her fears, mistakes and shortcomings not only when it comes to acknowledging and helping other fellow women in the workplace, but also in motherhood. She admits that shortly after giving birth she could not resist the urge to check email even though she had told herself and others she would be completely offline.
Lean In was an interesting and sometimes enlightening read. However, just like when I read other books like THe Four Agreements or even Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, I sometimes felt like I was reading things I already know, but often fail to put into practice, either because of complacency or the need to go to with the status quo to not ruffle feathers and to be liked. As a young woman in corporate America with a Masters, but still not yet where I want to be in my career, I did find the book to be empowering and at times encouraging, especially when Sandberg says “it’s not a ladder, it’s a jungle gym.” The book is laden with statistics that both encourage and depress in terms of changes in the workplace. Women are still underrepresented in high positions in companies, but at least there are more than in years past. Women are making more money, however they’re still making less than men.
Having been Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and later Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Sandberg is to be applauded for her accomplishments. As she points out, it’s unfortunate that her success and successes of other similar women are colored or shaded in the context of them being women. Women can take pride and encouragement that Sandberg has risen
through the ranks through hard work. Because of Sandberg’s upbringing, schooling and connections, every woman who reads the book cannot expect to follow exactly in Sandberg’s footsteps. She grew up in a two-parent home and is also raising her children in the same type of environment. She has had a series of high paying positions. Unfortunately this is not the case for many women and mothers. Also, not all mothers who work outside the home have the option of leaving work to have dinner with their children, not to mention good and affordable childcare is not a problem that plagues Sandberg.
Before reading the book, I heard plenty of buzz about it, from TV interviews to being on an airplane next to a woman who wanted to discuss it with me even though I told her I hadn’t read it. Once while entering the elevator with the book cradled in my arm, two of the three women already on the elevator had read it. And as I was reading it, I found out two other female co-workers were also reading it.
I listened to Sandberg’s TED Talks. Her subject matter in the speech was also covered in the book so I experienced moments of deja vu. However, despite those moments and the sporadic preachy tone, I felt I could relate to aspects of the book, even though I am not a working mother. One of my favorite quotes included in the book is from Alice Walker: The most common way people give up their
power is by thinking they don’t have any. This more than anything else stood out for me because despite women–myself included–being well-educated, having vast workplace experience and strong work ethic, we often defer or demure to men to take leadership positions. It is time for more women to lean in and take the front and center seats at the table to be noticed, involved
and eventually in charge.