The timing of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In” could not have been better, considering that a lot of discussion lately in the social media and news sites, has been about the “work-life” balance. One article in the NY Times asks “Is There Life After Work?”, good question! One that most of us have asked ourselves at one time or another. With ever-growing demands at the workplace and most of us having little kids at home to take care of, it is no easy task to keep it all together. “Lean In” is about finding that balance in work and life to achieve what we want. And key to that balance is finding the right partner, an equal and supportive partner. In a truly equal world, as Sandberg says, men would run half the homes and women half the countries. Also key is women finding the initiative and will to lead. If more women took on leadership roles at the workplace and more men contributed at home, we would surely be making some progress towards a truly equal world.
Far from being a memoir or a preachy lesson on women’s rights, “Lean In” is an inspiring call to action. As promised in the introduction, the book aims to be less of a feminist manifesto and more of an open and honest discussion on some of the issues women deal with at the workplace and finding ways to overcome them. Each chapter addresses a particular situation or dilemma and where appropriate Sandberg offers helpful suggestions. Nobody starts out chartering their complete career path fresh out of college, but with the right attitude and a drive to succeed, it definitely is possible to make it to that highest rung, as evidenced by Sandberg’s own success.
The book, undoubtedly makes a few valid points worth thinking about. One explanation on what could be holding women back from realizing their full potential, is that fundamentally, women are plagued by self-doubt, more so than their male counterparts. When offered a compliment on a job well done, women usually attribute it to being at the right place at the right time, having had help from others, or sometimes sheer luck but rarely to their own skills. Women are uncomfortable or even embarrassed when they are thought of as being too aggressive or too outspoken. She is too ambitious is not necessarily viewed as a good thing at the workplace. There is also something to be said about perception. Men are expected to advocate for themselves and play hardball but the same behavior from a woman is perceived as violating the gender norm. Still, rather than explaining away the reason for a dearth of female leaders on a male dominated society, Sandberg points to the fact that women more often than not, hold back when presented with challenging opportunities. To be noticed and be rewarded for our accomplishments, we need to speak up, demand an equal seat at the table and not be afraid to express our opinion. In essence, we need to “Lean In” instead of “leaning back”. It goes without saying that in addition to having the right approach and mindset, finding a motivating mentor or sponsor at work is invaluable to career progression. Mentors are often encouraged by an employee who shows potential, and a good word from someone higher up in the food chain can do wonders for one’s career.
The part in the book that resonated with me the most, is when Sandberg says “Think about what you would do if you are not afraid, and do it”. Take a leap of faith and believe in yourself that you have what it takes. Here’s a crazy idea, I have always wanted write. If I was not afraid I would take a creative writing course and start working on my novel. I would offer an opinion without worrying if I am being judged. I would speak up when I have something meaningful to add. I would take on a challenging project at work without over analyzing whether I can handle it. I would put myself out there if I was not afraid. And as scary as this sounds, I have a feeling this is just what I need. Success is sure to follow.
(image via amazon.com)