In today’s post, I have the pleasure of sharing my thoughts on a non-fiction book that I really enjoyed last year. My sister was given a copy of the book to read as a recommendation from one of her work colleagues. This in turn was recommended to me by her.
Lean In made for an interesting read, as it offers a very personal experience of leadership as a woman who, unfortunately, remained in the minority throughout several companies she worked at. The book goes a long way to advocate why more women need to be in senior roles.
Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
Genre: Non-fiction/Self Help
Publication Date: 12 Mar 2013
Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership. Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they’d feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in. The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women’s favour – of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business – draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.
Whilst Lean In is written by a woman and predominantly for women, I would argue that there is a basis for anybody to pick up this book. A lot of the advice is about what women can do in order to advocate for themselves. However, one big dependency of that is women working in an environment where that attitude is fostered and actively encouraged. The current bias of men in senior roles means it is a change that has to be supported by men.
Through Sheryl’s own experience, the book highlights examples of women’s health that ought to be considered when they wouldn’t necessarily come to the fore otherwise. As an example, Sheryl openly admits in the book that she only considered a need for accessible parking for pregnant women at the time when she needed it herself. Without a senior woman to represent such issues, it’s unlikely that women will see similar benefits in the workplace.
- There is some criticism for this book in that the advice is offered by a woman from a privileged and wealthy background. Sheryl doesn’t shy away from this in my opinion. Rather, her circumstances highlight the disparity in opportunities based on wealth (in terms of money and resources). Women shouldn’t be held back from returning to work by childcare fees, but more often than not, they are.
The important message of this book is about personal growth and development. Whilst there are some wider issues broached in the book, the point is that these can be tackled by individuals collectively working towards a more equal and fair society. There are distinct differences between men and women. Some examples are how ‘qualified’ individuals need to feel before applying for a job, or varied feelings of imposter syndrome. This isn’t a fault of men or women, but recognising these differences can help us to understand how disparities in roles originated, and what we can do to equalise them.
I have learned a good deal from reading Lean In… about work, but also about myself.
Have you read Lean In? Is this on your list to pick up sometime?