Monday, July 21, 2014

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead


Sheryl Sandberg

Category: Nonfiction: Women’s Studies; Business

Synopsis: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, explains how women hold themselves back in the workplace, and how this can change.

Date finished: 12 June 2014

Rating: ****

I’ve been circling the chair about writing this post for a long time. Where do I even start? I guess I could say that I had no interest in this book when it came out. I figured I wasn’t its target audience. Surely, nothing about my education or work experience made me the kind of woman Sandberg would be writing to. I had no interest in climbing a ladder or breaking a glass ceiling. Work, to me, is a vehicle for paying bills, not fulfillment. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t consider it a career.

I grew up in a town so small that there were no managers. No one was in a management position—men or women—unless you count farmers and night managers at the Kwik Trip. And I’m not trying to be flip here, but I just didn’t see examples of leadership until I was in college in 1990s. And upon graduation, I took a position at the same university I attended, so, in essence, my entire adult life has been spent in an academic environment. Which gives one a skewed view of life, yes, but at the same time, I saw just as many women in top positions (chairs, deans, directors, and associate chancellors) as I did men. I honestly didn’t think anything of it until I read this book.

So, from opposite points of view I come to Lean In.

I don’t imagine I have anything to add to the conversation because I’m coming to it so late. I didn’t follow the buzz or heated conversations upon the book’s release. But I do want to talk about the thing that struck me to most while reading the book. And that is Sandberg’s stance on women in the workplace, and especially, women in leadership roles in the workplace.

Sandberg admits to the same insecurities, emotions, and conflicts as any other woman. She discusses crying in the workplace, for instance. She talks about how important it might be to not separate work-life from home-life. She touches on difficulties of raising children while running a company. I didn’t give her enough credit going into the book. I assumed she’d be a hardnosed, put-all-your-eggs-in-the-career-basket type. Instead, I was relieved to see that she casts no aspersions on those women who decide to quit working to raise a family.

Sandberg encourages women to “sit at the table.” When I started my job in the university library, I was shocked the first time I attended an all-staff meeting that only men and academic staff sat at the table, while the others sat in the chairs around the periphery of the room. She talks about the same phenomenon. Will others hear our voices and consider our ideas if we cast ourselves aside?

There were, however, a few spots where I just flat out disagree with her. For instance: “study after study suggests that the pressure society places on women to stay home and do ‘what’s best for the child’ is based on emotion, not evidence.” I admit, I didn’t check her sources on that statement, but I maintain you can find a study to back up any position, and you will hold any position that will make you sleep at night. Perhaps women are evolving out of caregiver roles as society changes, but I honestly don’t think we’re there yet.

You’d think after a couple weeks to chew on the ideas presented in the book, I’d have a more coherent set of thoughts to share with you, but I think this is one of those books that will have me chewing for long after my review is posted. I’m so glad I finally read this book, because it opens up an internal dialogue that I’d long since thought was finished. It seems like every ten years or so I reevaluate what it means to be a feminist—and indeed, if I am one. This book is the catalyst for that redefinition this decade. Who knows what it will be next.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Every woman should probably read this book, regardless of the work she does. It’s short, concise, and personal, while giving you an overarching assessment of the business climate women face today.

And if nothing else, it has a few gems from Gloria Steinem that will make you smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment