Review: ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg

lean in_sheryl sandberg_cover“Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg has been on my radar for about a year now. I saw it in a few bookstores and honestly, after hearing how it was a go-to graduation gift, I thought I would’ve been given a copy. As a new addition to the workforce and a woman and a feminist, I figured I should read this sooner rather than later.

“Lean In” is a well-written, eye-opening book about women in the workplace. There were a lot of stats that I was aware of before I read the book, and there were other facts that I had assumed and saw proven.

– In a 2012 McKinsey survey of more than 4,000 employees, 36 percent of men wanted to reach the C-suite while 18 percent of women wanted the same.

– “Millennial women are less likely than millennial men to agree that the statement ‘I aspire to a leadership role in whatever field I ultimately work’ describes them very well.” (Chapter 1)

– When women evaluate themselves in front of other people or in stereotypically male domains, their underestimations of their skills becomes more pronounced. (Chapter 2)

– According to an internal report at Hewlett-Packard, women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed; men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the criteria. (Chapter 4)

Those are just some of the statistics and facts as I scanned the beginning of the book once more. Are any of them surprising to you?

Sandberg addresses many things about being a woman in the workplace. She talks about negotiations, offering tips of how to better negotiate. She advises that women should sit at the table more and not be afraid to let their voices be heard to their male colleagues; along with that, senior women should encourage junior women to add to the conversation.

There are also a couple chapters devoted to being a mother in the workforce. Though what she discussed and advised doesn’t apply to me, I found the chapters and her advice important. She talks about how many women consider balancing work and family long before they might have a family — women make a lot of small decisions along the way, make accommodations and sacrifices they think is required in order to have a family (Chapter 7). Sandberg also calls on men to be more empowered at home and challenge the gender bias when it comes to raising children.

While I enjoyed reading “Lean In” and found much of her advice useful for my own career, there were two big perspectives left out: women of color and women who are not wealthy. Having more of those perspectives included would have helped round out this book.

There are many who are opposed to different aspects of this book and how Sandberg presented information. I saw a few reviews that call her out on her privilege. Or claim she is saying that women will never be happy unless we occupy every C-suite. But this book starts the conversation on how to tackle the status quo between men and women. Sandberg acknowledges this, and I give her kudos for tackling this issue. I didn’t read it thinking any of her advice was the end-all, be-all like many negative reviewers made it seem like. She, as a woman, is offering her advice and her perspective — you can take it or leave it.

We should strive to resolve our differences quickly, and when we disagree, stay focused on our shared goals. This is not a plea for less debate, but for more constructive debate. (Chapter 11)


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