Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

December 27, 2013

lean in Summary (from the publisher): Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

Reaction:

I don’t read nonfiction very often, and I read business/career-related fare even less. But Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg had received so many glowing reviews and had spent so much time atop various bestseller lists that I felt I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Boy, am I glad I picked it up!

The book was encouraging, inspiring, and realistic all at once. It made me rethink a lot of my own actions from when I was in the corporate world and forced me to reflect on what I could/should have done differently. This is the kind of book/advice I wish I’d had at the beginning of my career, and firmly believe I would be in a different place today if I’d done the things Sandberg recommends.

So much of what she wrote resonated with me that it’s impossible to recount everything here. But here’s just a bit of what really stood out: women are promoted based on past accomplishments while men are promoted based on potential; women who rise through the ranks in any corporation are rarely liked by coworkers, which contrasts heavily with upwardly mobile men; nearly half of Sandberg’s female classmates from Harvard business school are no longer working full-time (by choice); women who actively seek raises and promotions are viewed much less favorably than men who do the same. This is not groundbreaking stuff, perhaps, but it does confirm that women are still very much disadvantaged in the workplace.

I liked that Sandberg offered concrete suggestions for how to begin resolving these iniquities. Support is key, regardless of whether women choose to stay home with children or pursue higher positions in their careers. This means having flexibility in the workplace and having true partners (spouses, significant others, etc.) who can equally share the burdens and responsibilities (and, of course, joys) of home life. She also gives tips on mentoring, advises women to help each other, and suggests ways to open dialogues about issues involving gender in the workplace.

The book is well-written (Sandberg leaned heavily on ghost writer Nell Scovell (hey, I know that name from Monk!) and cruises right along from beginning to end. It also has plenty of footnotes for the stats cited within, for those who are interested in such things. And although I’m sure this book was far from perfect, I can’t really think of any major negatives at this moment.

Rating:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is an exceptional career book that contains useful insights and advice for women in the workplace. I loved it, and am making a point of giving it as a gift to a few young women I know. Although the advice can be applied at any time, the earlier the better, IMO. I give this one 5 stars out of 5.

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