book recommendations · BOOK REVIEWS

‘LEAN IN: Women, Work And the Will to lead.’ by Sheryl Sandberg

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I read ‘Lean In’ over Christmas, quite some time after I had stumbled on her popular TED talk and seen a CNN interview she’d given. I think every professional woman should read this book. I’m aware that it’s been criticized for being a bit ‘ridiculously wealthy white woman whining about her professional and personal woes’ or not being authentically feminist. I don’t care. She gives brilliant advice in it.

Sandberg charts her own career progression from childhood to attending Harvard University and Harvard Business School as well as her jobs as a research assistant for Wold Bank, consultant for Mckinsey & Company, Chief of Staff of the United States Treasury Department,VP of Global Online Sales and Operations  Google and eventually Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.

Throughout the book she highlights the challenges, unique to women, that she personally faced and that other women face as evidenced by studies,  reports, etc. For example, the pressure young women face to focus on marriage. Sandberg said

‘..and for all the progress,  there is still societal pressure for women to keep an eye on marriage from a young age. When I went to college, as much as my parents emphasized academic achievement, they emphasized marriage even more. They told me that the  most eligible women marry young to get a ‘good man’ before they are all taken’

She speaks about how so many successful women, including herself feel like frauds and that they somehow don’t deserve the success which they worked for. Something which is uncommon with their male counterparts. She advises women to take more risks in the workplace and not fall prey to the tiara syndrome i.e. expecting that if they keep doing well someone will notice one day and place a tiara on their heads. She talks about communicating effectively at work, mentoring and the myth of doing it all.Regarding the latter she refers to Gloria Steinem’s words

‘You can’t do it all. No one can have two full time jobs, have perfect children and cook three meals and be multi orgasmic till dawn…Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement.’

I was surprised at how personal Sandberg made the book. She used her own challenges, flaws and anecdotes by way of analogy and I liked that a lot. She encourages dialogue and constructive debate on gender equality by showing how far we are still yet to come despite the progress we appear to have made. In addition she encourages women to get to the top of their chosen career path( if they wish to) and achieve their full for potential and also appeals to men to contribute more in the home.

One of my favorite quotations, on the subject of productivity, that she references is one that she says is displayed in Facebook’s office. It says simply

‘Done is better than perfect.’

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