Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead
Sheryl Sandberg is well aware of the controversy her thoughts might provoke. She argues that to achieve true equality women need to lean in to be heard at the boardroom table – while men need to lean into the kitchen table and share more tasks at home. After decades of putting her head down and trying to fit in, she has decided to speak out and help overcome the barriers that hold women back.
The book is peppered with personal accounts of Sandberg’s own experience and insecurities, and examples of both remarkable support from men and sexist attitudes that can come from both men and women. She draws on a solid body of research sourced by Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford University, to highlight the issues such as:
- Despite many years of progress, only 17 of the world’s 195 independent countries are led by women and only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
- Women only apply for jobs if they meet all criteria – men apply when they meet 60%
- Men get promotions because of potential – women because of past accomplishments
- Men are applauded for being ambitious and powerful, but women who display the same traits often pay a social penalty
- When asked to evaluate their own performance, women give themselves lower scores than men, despite evidence to the contrary
- Men tend to negotiate more than women – but a woman seen as negotiating for purely her own advancement can pay a cost in future progression
Investor Warren Buffet has commented that one of the reasons for his great success is that he is competing with only half the population. The women’s revolution which promised equality has stalled.
Sandberg believes that women – including herself – are hindered by both external barriers and barriers from within. She has seen that many women lack self-confidence, don’t raise their hands, and pull back when they should be leaning in.
In each of the book’s chapters she tackles a specific point – from suggestions for ensuring that tasks at home are shared equally between partners; to not trying to reach unattainable standards – busting the myth of doing it all.
In her chapter at sitting at the table, Sandberg recounts a meeting between Facebook and a US Treasury Secretary and his team where the four women, despite being expressly invited to, declined to sit at the conference table and just observed from the sidelines. This lack of self-confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sandberg says that when plagued with the same insecurities, she fakes it until she actually feels it. Feeling confident – or pretending that you feel confident – is far more likely to lead to new opportunities. In Sandberg’s experience at Google, she found that it was so often the men that identified and grasped the new opportunities, while the women needed to be persuaded that they should try.
Sandberg shares several ideas for women to progress including:
- Don’t leave before you leave – don’t put your career on the backburner even if you are considering having children
- Smile even when you do not feel like it – you will achieve more as a woman if you are still perceived as ‘nice’
- Replace ‘I’ with ‘we’ in negotiations – people respond better if a woman’s negotiation is perceived as being for the communal good rather than personal gain
- Raise your hand – and keep it up
About the author
Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating office at Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 most powerful Women in Business. Sheryl was previously a vice president at Google, chief of staff at the US Treasury Department, and worked at McKinsey & Co and the World Bank. She has a BA in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Her original TED talk that helped inspire the book can be viewed at: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html
Sheryl Sandberg brilliantly explains how she believes women must put themselves forward if the gender gap is ever to be closed – I agree, but I would add women should not only lean in, but also stand up and cheer. – Martha Lane Fox
For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers – especially men – to become better and more effective leaders – Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Facebook
Author: Sheryl Sandberg