I hate admitting when I am wrong. But, boy was I wrong about Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. I had bought into the vilified image the press had created: she was advocating that women just needed to lean in….. There was no responsibility for corporate America to change. I thought: “I have been leaning in for my entire career! It is time for the business community to step up and lean in!” Then I saw Sheryl interviewed on the Daily Show and I liked what she had to say. So I reluctantly bought the book. I could not have been more wrong about her message.
Reading Lean In, I thought: “This book could have been written by me! I have so much in common with Sheryl Sandberg.” I also worked as an assistant to a congressman in school. I interviewed at Google in the early 2000s, created a spreadsheet to evaluate job opportunities, and thought the Google job title was not senior enough (yes, I know, stupid decision). I carry around a real notepad and pen to take notes. I gained almost 70lbs with each pregnancy!
Then I came back to reality. Did I really have that much in common with the sixth most powerful woman in the world?
I realized her stories probably resonated with hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of women worldwide. They resonated with me as well. Here are a few examples of quotes from Lean In with a similar personal experience:
“We need to stop telling young women, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’ Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’”
I have had several amazing mentors. NONE of them were from formal mentor programs. Every single one was someone that I had impressed through my work, I realized could be influential in my career, and I took the opportunity to ask for their guidance.
“The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in.”
While I thought I would have children at a younger age, I was 35 when my first child was born… 15 years into my career. I had enough seniority to demand some flexibility during my children’s young years. I don’t necessarily recommend everyone follow my path, but I will recommend putting in the extra effort prior to having children – it will pay off. When I was pregnant with my first son, I worked at a global company and put in my time in terms of travel. My son visited more countries in utero then a lot of people visit in a lifetime. Because I was willing to travel and meet my colleagues on their terms the 9 months before my son arrived, I was able to say no to a lot of international meetings the first 2 years of his life. Lean in prior to having kids.
At a recent ladies night out, several of us were good heartedly joking about our husbands (leaving the toilet seat up, etc.). A friend of mine joked, “We must all be married to the same man!” Talking about this book with my female community made me wonder – are we all working for the same company? Our experiences and issues seem to be universal.
How do we as women move society forward? I believe official reform is imperative. I also believe that women as a community can come together and make a huge impact.
Bravo Ms. Sandberg for this wonderful book. I, for one, plan to continue to Lean In.