Indicative of the mental transformation that often accompanies a pregnant woman’s physical changes, the first line in Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” written with Nell Scovell, foreshadows Sandberg’s realization that women leaders can effect powerful, positive transformation in fellow women’s work experiences. Sandberg is the chief operating officer at Facebook, named one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People in the World, and ranked on Fortune‘s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.
Sandberg’s book was inspired by a TEDTalk she gave in 2010, in which she explained that women hold themselves back professionally—unintentionally. Her recommendations were for women to “sit at the table,” take risks, and enthusiastically pursue their goals.
I’d heard the buzz about this book as well as the criticism that Sandberg is privileged, having a moneyed background, Harvard education, and supportive family. As it turns out, she acknowledges the truth of this criticism in the book, but makes the point that her message is still valid and applicable to women in less favorable circumstances. She makes a case for “leaning in,” which she defines as “being ambitious in any pursuit,” with the goal of fairness and equal access to opportunities.
In addition to acknowledging the power imbalance between the sexes in leadership, Sandberg makes an interesting point about women holding themselves back – perhaps unconsciously – rather than being assertive like their male peers. She illustrates her assertions with well-documented research as well as personal anecdotes and offers practical advice on building careers and negotiation techniques.
The book’s conclusion is that you need to pursue those opportunities you want rather than let yourself be intimidated. In addition, you need to do what you can to change the inequality rather than waiting for someone else to do it. Make the world a better place – for you as well as for others – women and men alike.
Walking her talk, Sandberg acted on her principles by donating all of her income from the book to her nonprofit organization, Lean In, and other charities that support women. Women who would like to change their lives can join Lean In Circles and meet, learn, and grow together.
As one of the chapter titles says, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Well, what would you do?
First sentence: “I got pregnant with my first child in the summer of 2004.”
Last sentence: “And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in–all the way.”