Lean In

I recently finished Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In.  Sandberg examines the leadership gap, and in each chapter she discusses studies surrounding women and achievement. I'll admit her tone is more serious than those I most enjoy (I started Lean In just after sampling Jessica Alba's The Honest Life, and my mind said, "time to shift gears!"). It's not that Sandberg isn't likeable or that Alba isn't serious, but Sandberg is unapologetically data-driven. To her credit, I believe this was 100% the right way to go with this subject matter. I believe what makes Lean In so effective is that Sandberg is not just pontificating--her theories are fact-based.

My one regret about ordering Lean In on my Kindle is that I can't pass it to my friends. I may just have to buy the hard copy so that I can (and so I can underline and star to my heart's desire). My favorite chapter was the one on success and likeability (which is positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women), but I found value throughout. To be clear, I'm not a Sandberg disciple--my willingness to move around the country for my husband's career (at times to the detriment of my own) flies in the face of what she preaches. And there were things she suggested women need to improve on that don't apply to me. I sit at the table; I have mentors; I have strong female role models. (Though perhaps getting back to her point of society acculturating us to feel that being courageous in your career is a male trait--I've always considered myself "ballsy.")

I will keep with me the idea that men apply for a job when they feel they have 60% of the qualifications and women apply when they feel 100%. Or that "smart like daddy" and "pretty like mommy" shirts can affect childrens' ideas of what it means to be successful when they grow up. And of course the classic "don't leave before you leave" story Sandberg tells about women refusing to accelerate their careers when they're young, because they've fast-forwarded in their mind and can't imagine how a higher-up job will balance with motherhood.

When Lean In came out, I read a fair amount of blogs against the book. Women who didn't want to be told to Lean In or that they should approach their career one way or another, because they were doing just fine. And while of course everyone is entitled to agree or disagree with Sandberg's ideas, I personally think that any woman who hates the book, didn't need it. What I mean is: I think Sandberg writes for a specific woman--a woman who feels like a fraud because she believes her success is based solely on luck (another interesting section); or who is too shy to sit at the table; or who wonders how in the world she's going to manage it all. I'm sure Sandberg would salute the woman who is secure enough in her decisions that she neither needs nor wants this book, but she wasn't thinking about them as she wrote (and rightly so). She's writing for the woman who does need encouragement, who does need a role model. And I think that's the role of an author--to write a book for an audience who needs someone to speak to them and their particular challenges.

So if you haven't read it yet, go grab a latte and check out Lean In. Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the book.