It was about 8 months ago I started to hear the buzz around my office on a new book poised for women and challenging the idea of equality in the workplace. I for one have never stopped to think about myself specifically as being a woman in corporate america and what that actually means. I have been blessed to work in an environment where I have had many inspiring women leading and paving the way ahead of me. Along those lines I have also been fortunate enough to have been recognized and rewarded for my hard work with 4 promotions in less than 7 years. However I am still a woman in business and I have strong goals and aspirations, so I decided it might not be a bad idea to read the book with all of the word of mouth by current COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg.
If you look up reviews on “Lean In” you are most likely going to find a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. Some have found Sheryl’s point of view on how women need to challenge themselves and to step more into leadership roles within the workforce as coming from a place of privilege. That she is out of touch with the common woman and mother. Her critics pose the question of if it was not for her affluent upbringing and being able to afford to go to Harvard would she be where she is today? The challenges continue into her current position of prosperity and without her current wealth would not be feasible to balance work and family the way she does? Although I respect the opinions above they are not what I took out of the book. I landed on the side with most of the other reviewer’s which is women must take control of their own career and feel just as empowered as men or anyone else for what they deserve.
For those of you who have not heard of the book the premise as stated by the publisher is this “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.”
Reading through there where some thoughts Sheryl touched on that really resonated with me. The first being how as a women we tend to question ourselves more and because of this make our voices less heard and therefore speak up less often. We tend to question our ability to be able to do something, we need proof we will succeed before we start instead of just jumping in head first and knowing we will. For myself this really ringed true. I have never been one to speak loudly. In school I would not be the one raising my hand to answer a question. When getting into the working world I have always been the beilever if you work hard people will notice and you will get compensated. With every career advancement I have started to do the job prior to going into it. This always has made me feel more comfortable, confident, and frankly deserving of the promotion. While reading Sheryl’s book it does make you step back and think is this how a man would approach the same situation?
Sheryl also talks about how it is not solely up to women to lean in more at work, but in order to be successful you need a partner at home who is willing to help equally as well. Sheryl states “The single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.” The idea behind this is if you don’t have someone at home willing to play an equal role and support your ambition it will make balancing your work and personal goals more difficult. Personally growing up and watching my parents who have always been equals when it came to work and the home, I have to say this is one point I do agree with. I think in order for anyone to succeed regardless of sex they need a great support system. Sheryl really challenges women to try roles outside or their comfort zone, in order to succeed woman must allow themselves to fail, and a women should not question whether she can have it all, but know she can.
Overall I would recommend this read. I feel the book brought up a lot of thought provoking questions and made me step outside of my normal line of thinking and look at being a woman in business from a more macro perspective. I think this book is great for any woman who values career, but also wants to balance it with her personal life. I feel this book is also a great read for men. Not only does Sheryl just offer good career advice, but she also poses the question of what can men do to help make sure woman are getting equal opportunities,how can they do their part to support an equal work environment? The biggest takeaway for me as a newer leader of a larger team at work is “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”