I recently read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg in order to become more inspired. Many of my friends rave about this book, so I had to see for myself what it was all about. As printed on the book’s cover, Lean In is about “women, work, and the will to lead.” Sheryl Sandberg currently works as the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. In a male-dominated industry in Silicon Valley, Sandberg stands out as the the only female on Facebook’s leadership team. Over fifty percent of college graduates in the United States are women, but men still hold a majority of leadership positions in jobs. With her book, Sandberg highlights gender inequality in the workplace and offers advice to empower women with knowledge and confidence. In order for women to battle gender inequality and rise to the top at work, they have to lean in. To “lean in” means to be assertive and to become a leader, not a follower. Each chapter of Lean In discusses a different challenge, stereotype, or stigma that women face at work. There were three chapters that particularly stood out to me: Sit at the Table, Are You My Mentor?, and The Myth of Doing It All.
In Sit at the Table, Sandberg talks about how in many situations, women tend to hold themselves back and watch from the sidelines. Sandberg provides an example of a time she hosted a Silicon Valley executive meeting at Facebook, with the attendees consisting of mostly men and a few females. Instinctively, the men grabbed plates of food first and sat down at the large conference table in the room. In contrast, the women waited to grab their food second and chose to sit in the chairs on the side of room. Although the women were equal in position to the men at the meeting, they subdued themselves to spectators rather than participants. Sandberg asserts that despite their achievements and credibility, women experience self-doubt and feel as if they will be discovered as frauds at any moment. Women tend to judge themselves more critically and attribute success to external factors beyond their own abilities. In order for women to conquer their self-doubt, they need to be more assertive and confident with themselves and learn to sit at the table.
The second chapter that stood out to me in Lean In is Are You My Mentor? In this chapter, Sandberg explores the fact that women are actively seeking mentors. While men seek mentors to focus on managing a business, women seek mentors to focus on managing a career. Women attribute career success to having a mentor, who they see as someone who will help them find the perfect work/life balance. Sandberg argues that mentorship is important for both men and women, but it is harder for women to find mentors. There is a scarcity of female mentors who hold high positions in companies. In order to solve this problem, companies need to offer programs and encourage upper level females to mentor younger women within the company.
The third chapter that stood out to me was The Myth of Doing It All. Society places boundaries on women to either have a career or a family, but not both. Young women pursue their careers with the anticipation of sacrificing the chance to have a family. Sandberg proves this societal belief wrong by highlighting that women can have both a career and a family, but it often comes at a price. Women who choose to balance both a career and a family are naturally set up by society to fail. In order to overcome the barriers thrown at working mothers, women often have to make adjustments to their schedules and define specific times for work and family.
Throughout Lean In, Sandberg touched on a variety of topics that I could relate to concerning gender inequality in the workplace. I believe that women are often set up for failure in their careers as they are often forced to choose between a successful career or family. As someone who wants both, it was refreshing to gain Sandberg’s perspective on how to make it happen. I am a young female entering a male-dominated workforce, and I want to be equipped with the right mindset to launch a successful career. Reading Lean In was a helpful addition to my reading list and is something I think every female college student should read. Overall, gaining Sandberg’s advice and perspective on how women must fight gender inequality in their careers has empowered me, and I am finally ready to lean in.