Lean In

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lean In
Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
by Sheryl Sandberg

I tend to avoid books like this like the plague. They often strike me as self-help nonsense that only tells people what they want to hear or what they already know. For me, this was not that at all. Sandberg’s goal with the book is to help women in the workforce to step up to the plate and get involved in their offices. So much of what she talked about (women not noting their own accomplishments, women being viewed in a negative light if they took on authority roles) were things I had seen for myself in my own career. Oh and did I mention she’s the COO of Facebook?

“A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.” 

Though we have come a long way in gender equality in the workplace, we still have stigmas connected with certain decisions that affect the way we see ourselves. There are “working” moms and “stay-at-home” moms, yet we never quantify our male counterparts in the same way. Sandberg addresses these issues without ever condescending or saying that one choice it right for everyone. The important thing is to understand that you have a choice as a woman.

“For many men, the fundamental assumption is that they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.”

One thing that particularly stuck in my mind was the Howard/Heidi study. People were asked to evaluate a potential employee based on a detailed resume with past experience, education, expertise and more. The only difference was that the name was female for some and male for others. Again, all the details of past jobs and experience were identical, yet people saw the female job candidate as someone who was aggressive or overly ambitious. They thought she might be qualified, but no one wanted to work with her. This was the response from both men and women! When a man is in a position of power he tends to be respected. When a woman is in the same position her actions are often seen as harsh. I kept thinking of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s SNL Weekend Update bit about “Bitches get stuff done!” It’s the same idea. Women are seen as bitches if they make hard decisions, while men are seen as strong leaders.

After reading The Feminine Mystique just last month, I found this one infinitely more applicable to my current life. She talks about the problems but she also provides actual advice and logical steps to take to overcome those hurdles. It was interesting to read them both and see how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. She doesn’t simplify matters and make it seem like there’s an easy answer, but she addresses the problems without flinching and often the problem is the women themselves. She talks about this without blame or guilt. We’ve been trained that it’s more important to be liked than to be successful. Her approach is not to disregard out self-doubt completely, but to be confident in our abilities moving forward.

BOTTOM LINE: I really loved it and want to get my own copy for future reference and lending (I read a library copy.) Having just started a new job I hope that I can incorporate some of these tips into my daily interaction.

“The cost of stability is often diminished opportunities for growth.”

“In today’s world, we no longer have to hunt in the wild for our food, our desire for leadership is largely a culturally created and reinforced trait. How individuals view what they can and should accomplish is in large part formed by our societal expectations.”

“Searching for mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.”


Lisa said...

I am on the library list for this book (it is a really long one, still). You've reminded me why I'm still waiting!

Kate said...

This is on my shelf! Looking forward to reading it.

Heather said...

I don't normally read books like this either, but you have definitely made me interested!

Andi said...

I shy away from these sorts of books, too, but having seen Kim's review at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and yours, too, I'm fascinated!

Kerry M said...

Glad to see your review (and that I wasn't the *last* person to read this...). Like you, I tend to shy away from self-help-y type books, and this one in particular made me wary for a lot of reasons. But ultimately I really took a lot out of Sandberg's writing. I have a feeling my own very underlined copy will get revisited from time to time.

PS -- LOVE the blog redesign!!

Loni said...

This also seemed to me the type of book I would typically avoid. After your post though, I might check it out.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Lisa - Good! I was lucky and my friend lent me her library copy after she finished it.

Kate - Enjoy!

Heather - I'm sure part of it was reading it at just the right time (after starting a new job) but I got so much out of it!

Andi - I was really surprised that I enjoyed it so much.

Kerry M - Thanks! I'm loving the new design too.

Loni - Hope you get something out of it!