My thoughts: I chose to use the publisher's description because it's not the kind of book I would normally read (or enjoy), based on its description. Yet I kept hearing trusted friends and colleagues rave about it, so I decided to give it a try. And I am so, so glad I did. Not only did I like it, I loved it. I loved it so much I think it should be required reading for anyone. Period. Hear me out, my fellow nonfiction and business book skeptics.
I have an aversion to business. I sought out work as an academic librarian to be far, far away from the corporate world, yet I've slowly realized over the past few years that by living in capitalist society, I cannot be completely removed from business. Many of the same power dynamics are at play in business are in academia. More importantly, in the courses I teach, many students, male and female, seek a career in business. I view part of my role as preparing for them for that work, even though I have no affiliation with the business school. By the end of the first chapter, I knew I would find a way to teach this book in my First Year Seminar (FYS) next fall. In my FYS, we spent the first month of class reading and discussing Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a book I thoroughly enjoy, but as fascinating as it is, some of my students expressed a level of helplessness after reading it, as though their future success (or lack thereof) has already been decided for them. Lean In is an inspiring antidote to Outliers. Sandberg is a visionary, both personally and professionally:
"A truly equal world would be on where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world. The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve."What Sandberg does so beautifully in this book is to weave her personal experiences and observations into an impeccably researched narrative and call to action. There are certainly sobering realizations. The idea of "stereotype threat" haunts me:
"Social scientists have observed that when members of a group are made aware of a negative stereotype, they are more likely to perform according to that stereotype. For example, stereotypically, boys are better at math and science than girls. When girls are reminded of their gender before a math or science tests, even by something as simple as checking off an M or F box at the top of the text, they perform worse."I was most moved by two pieces of the book: the mistakes young female workers make by not leaning in and the fraught ideas of fitting children into career. As a professor, I want to do all I can to steer my students away from the sexist tropes of business,both in my classroom and in their lives. Far too often I witness gender-stereotype-reinforcing behavior from my male and female students. I should do more to address it directly rather than trying to redirect it. As a 33-year-old happily married, career-driven woman trying to start a family, ideas about balancing work and family are often on my mind. I harbor no desire to not return to work when (or if) we have a child. But I still find myself wanting to lean out rather than lean in lately, particularly in terms of the future. In academia, as in many fields, we are always planning far ahead. When discussing events in 2014 and 2015, I find myself thinking (and doubting), as I wonder--but what if I'm pregnant or on maternity leave then? What obligation do I have to share my personal plans now? Should I be afraid to mention the idea of wanting a family? If the last six months have taught me anything, it's that you don't know when (or if) it will happen, and yet it took Sandberg's direct encouragement that this is the most important time in my career to lean in. There is no more important time to have a challenging, fulfilling career than when trying to bring a new life into this world.
Favorite passage: "Personal choices are not always as personal as they appear. We are all influenced by social conventions, peer pressure, and familial expectations."
The verdict: If I had to sum up the message of Sandberg's book, it would be with this passage from a speech she made at a college graduation: "I hope you find true meaning, contentment and passion in your life." It's simple and eloquent, and the rest of her book outlines all the complexities of our world that make that so much easier than said done. Sandberg asserts the world would be a better place if we had more women running companies and more men running homes, and I agree. I also think the world would be a better place if everyone read Lean In.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 241 pages
Publication date: March 11, 2013
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Lean In from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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