About a month ago, I realized I needed some guidance on managing people. I turned to Amazon and looked through dozens of titles. ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ caught my eye and from the write up it seemed to speak to some of the issues I was (and still am) working to overcome in my leadership journey.
Lean In was nothing like I expected (I still need to read a book on managing people), but this book made me think harder and reflect on my behavior as a woman in the workplace. It addressed the things that women, including me, do and have done to hold ourselves back; and the way we treat each other as women with choices. I think Lean In is a must-read for women (and men for that matter) in the workplace.
Perspective and Empowerment
The facts and stats Sheryl Sandberg presents on the topics of women in the workplace, salary gaps, competition, ambition, and work / family / life balance will make you stop and think — I definitely did. It’s amazing how many inequalities that women still face and the obstacles we put in our own way at times. Still, a couple of the points fell flat in my opinion, but I won’t get into that here (criticisms of the book are heavily documented if you Google ‘reviews of Lean In’).
Overall, Lean In left me feeling empowered, inspired and refreshed. I really appreciate that a woman with so much influence opened up this conversation. In fact, after I was a few chapters into ‘Lean In,’ I asked some women in my office to read it, so we could discuss the issues and because I was finding the information so valuable.
It’s been very interesting to hear this book from different perspectives within my group of readers—the new mom of twins working to balance work, motherhood and marriage; a single woman looking to accelerate her career growth; and a working mom in her 20s. The book helped us to have conversations about our workplace, personal career growth, and challenges as working women that we probably would have never discussed otherwise.
A few of my big takeaways and reasons to read include:
Support of other women.
Stanford professor Deborah Gruenfeld is quoted in the book as saying, “We need to look out for one another, work together, and act more like a coalition. As individuals, we have relatively low levels of power. Working together, we are 50 percent of the population and therefore have real power.” Too often, women are critical or see each other as the competition instead of embracing one another’s ambition and abilities. In the last chapter of the book, there are ideas and guides on how to continue the conversation that the book started within your own circles and ways to support each other’s development.
It’s actually not a ladder and that’s OK.
The author shares an example of a Senior Director of Marketing at eBay wanting to work at Facebook. She asked Sheryl what the start-up’s biggest problem was and went to work solving it for them—the position wasn’t in marketing and opened up a whole new career path for her. Most professionals think of their career as a ladder, which is pretty limiting, not to mention inaccurate as pointed out by Sheryl. Rethinking the career venture as a jungle gym instead of a ladder opens up so many more options and career possibilities.
You have to ask.
I loved the example of Sheryl Sandberg hiking her way to Google through an endless parking lot while pregnant. Once she finally asked about expectant mother parking spaces, the leaders of the organization said they had never thought about it and accommodated her request right away. In my own experiences, I’ve learned that you do have to advocate for yourself and your needs, even when it’d be more comfortable to sit quietly. Just because it doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea or that the question has even been asked. Speak up and be respectfully assertive.
Have you read ‘Lean In’? What was your reaction?