Editorial Staff

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” A Book Review

Women can sometimes be their own worse enemy when it comes to achieving career success. That’s a controversial message in light of the fact that gender and racial discrimination does still occur in the workforce, but that message is the basic premise of Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead,” a sort-of feminist primer on how to get ahead in the world of work.

“Lean In” is a book written for the ambitious type of woman who wants to achieve career success but she may be unintentionally holding herself back with self-limiting beliefs and behaviors.

There is the public revolution that needs to take place in order to make the corporate ladder easier to climb for women–that public revolution includes the need for paid maternity leave and the ability to access and afford high-quality daycare for small children. There is also the internal revolution that needs to take place inside of some women–that internal revolution includes the need for women to stop holding themselves back, to stop being afraid of their own ambition, and to stop “leaving before they leave.”

“Leaving before you leave” describes when a woman begins holding herself back in her career in attempt to make sure that she leaves time in her life to have children, often a woman starts this leaving process years before she has had kids, and, according to Sandberg, sometimes a woman begins this self-restricting behavior pattern before she had even met a man whom she wants to have kids with. By taking themselves out the game in anticipation of having kids before kids are even a blip on the radar, women are making less likely that they will be promoted in the future. In other words, by the time a way is actually ready to have children, she could be at a higher pay grade and in a position with more flexibility, therefore making it less financially constraining and emotionally taxing to have children–if said woman had only not begun holding herself back years before.

But make no mistake, Sandberg is not declaring that women should care more about receiving accolades at work than at being happy at home and in your personal life. In a chapter titled ‘Make Your Partner a Real Partner,’ Sandberg details just how important making the right choice in who you choose as an intimate partner can be for your career.

Sandberg offers her sage advice about how to make sure that you don’t get the short end of the stick when it comes to household duties:

Even after finding the right–or gal–no one comes fully formed. I learned from my mother to be careful about role definition in the beginning of a relationship. Even though my mother did most of the household work, my father always vacuumed the floor after dinner. She never had to persuade him to do this chore; it was simply his job from day one. At the start of a romance it’s tempting for a woman to show a more classic “girlfriendy” side by volunteering to cook meals and take care of errands. And, suddenly, we’re back in 1955. If a relationship begins in an unequal place, it’s likely to get more unbalanced when and if children are added to the equation. Instead, use the beginning of a relationship to establish the division of labor…

And, lest you think that being less “girlfriendy” in the beginning of relationship will somehow stop you from finding love, Sandberg notes that the overwhelming vast majority of the women who make it to the C-Suite are married. Finding someone who loves you and supports your career will be the most important decision a smart, ambitious woman can make.

This is not a book for every woman, this is a book for those women who want to have it all–though Sandberg herself admits that doing it all is a myth. The reality is that we all have the same amount of time in a day. For some women, 24 hours is enough time to be married, raise kids, and have a full-time career. For other woman, 24 hours is only enough time to be a stay-at-home Mom and wife. This is not a book that attempts to pit women who work outside of the home for wages against women who work inside of the home for non-financial rewards. This is a book that tells women to go for the gold, if the gold is what they want. This is a book that says working inside of the home is so important that more men should be doing so. In one of her most famous quips, Sandberg has said “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

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