Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s first book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead is not only for working women. It is not only for women as a matter of fact. It is a book for our modern society. A society that on the surface says and wants to believe it is unbiased when it comes to gender, but is actually culturally conditioned to be more comfortable with stereotypical roles based on one’s gender.
Applaudably, taking the approach of a problem solver, Sandberg primarily dedicates her focus on what women can do to change the conception of unnecessary gender bias in the workplace, and thus the quality of life they can live as they choose to work, have a family, build a strong marriage and live a fulfilling life.
With scores of research she demonstrates again and again that women are just as capable and have proven themselves to be capable in any leadership role a man has had, yet sadly, again with research to back up her claim, she reveals that society subconsciously has a hard time swallowing this fact.
While absorbing the many hard to swallow statistics, her purpose in sharing so much irrefutable data is to lift the veil of what we’d like to pretend doesn’t exist any more. The days of Mad Men and blatant sexual discrimination may be gone, but instead such stereotypes have been passively hanging on lurking under the surface, and ironically, women themselves at times are to blame as we try not stand out or be labeled negatively for speaking up for what we need and rightly deserve for the quality of work we do.
Just as the bitter truth becomes nearly too much, she offers logical evidence to remind us that by choosing to lean in at work and continuing to lean in until fifty percent of all leadership roles are filled by women, we create fairer treatment for all women no matter what choice they have decided to live when it comes to their life path.
And to return to the audience in which this book is intended. By striving for equality in the workplace, we also help lift the stereotype that men often are burdened with when they work with their spouse in an equal capacity in the home. “The goal is to work toward a world where those social norms no longer exist . . . Expectations will not be set by gender but by personal passion, talents and interests.” And as she reminds her readers, isn’t that what equality is all about? Being able “to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us.”
It’s easy to point the finger somewhere else. To blame everyone else, but society is made up of people, and each one of us is part of society. If we each stop to really consider our actions – am I behaving or thinking this way because of what I’ve been taught or because of what I truly desire? Am I behaving this way so that I won’t feel guilty? And then the question has to be asked? Who is making you feel guilty? Why are you feeling guilty? All we can do is our best, but why can’t both parents be expected to shoulder the same responsibility? And why should society applaud a new father’s callous behavior of playing soccer on the day his child was born, and at the same time scorn a mother who wishes to go back to work? Sandberg raises these questions and offers a long list of specific advice for women in the areas of workplace relationships, professionalism, finding a mentor, choosing a supportive partner, and continuing to progress toward one’s goals.
Not once does she profess to being perfect or to have figured it all out, but she does demonstrate what she implores women to do – lean in and speak up.
Click here to buy: Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg