Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg


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ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

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.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

MY REVIEW:

When my first child was born ten years ago, I was working full-time and my husband and I financially could not afford for me to quit my job to be home with her.  After an 8-week maternity leave, I reluctantly returned to work, and I was miserable.  One day, while having lunch with a few co-workers, one of them (who did not have children yet) told me that when she had children she was going to "give it 100%," meaning that she was going to be a full-time mom and not divide her time between work and her children. I will never forget that conversation.  While it may not have been her intention to hurt me (although I believe it was), it reinforced the guilt I was already feeling inside because I could not give my child "100%."

A couple of years later, when I was pregnant with my second child, I realized that I would soon be paying so much in childcare that it was almost not worth it for me to be working (when looking at it from a short-term perspective).  I was able to find a very part-time job working from home that enabled me to continue contributing to our household income and was much happier being home with my kids.  However, this new side job quickly blossomed into a new (and very demanding) career that I hadn't expected.  I found myself struggling with the "work-life balance," but also discovered that I really enjoyed my work and the sense of accomplishment it gave me.

As a working mother, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is the most empowering book I have ever read!  It was eye-opening for me in a few ways:

1) Women often make decisions that hold them back in their careers long before they even have children.  We may select certain career paths or turn down opportunities because the idea of having a family "someday" is in the back of our minds.

2) In the last 30 years, women have made significant progress in the workplace, but the same cannot be said for the home.  "According to the most recent analysis, when a husband and wife both are employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the father.  A 2009 survey found that only 9 percent of people in dual-earner marriages said that they shared housework, child care, and breadwinning evenly." I am so intrigued by these statistics that I have added the book Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All to my reading list for this year (possibly to my husband's dismay)!

3) Being a working mother does not mean that you are bad mother!  "Study after study suggests that the pressure society places on women to stay home and do 'what's best for the child' is based on emotion, not evidence."

4) I have never considered myself a feminist, although when it is defined as "someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes," I realize that, well, I am. 

I have worked with many women over the years who refuse to "lean in" to their careers, and I have been guilty of this myself in the past.  Sheryl's invitation to "lean in" is a powerful message to all women!  "We move closer to the larger goal of true equality with each woman who leans in."

If you are a working mother, Lean In is a must-read!  But I also recommend it for any woman who may have children someday, and I also believe that men (especially those who are married with children and/or in leadership roles) could gain a lot from it.