Sheryl Sandberg has received more than her share of publicity as being Facebook’s chief operations officer. With her new book out, Lean In, it’s becoming more difficult to not hear her name on a regular basis. She has made her mark in the technology world. She hit the book world with both feet running. The book also produced something else, an organization, Leanin.org which Sheryl encourages everyone to visit at the end of the book.
The book starts off with Sheryl stating that her grandmother went to UC Berkley, her mother went to college, and Sheryl herself went to Harvard as well as Cambridge. This sent a message of “if you don’t come from a well-educated and financially stable family, you will not be as successful as I am”. Even though she puts it sweetly, it’s kind of a kick to the face. Sheryl Sandberg is what Peggy McIntosh would call “White Privilege”.
The only thing lacking in this book is cultural diversity, or any diversity other than males and females. The American office corporation is mostly populated with white Americans. This is addressed once in the book when an African American business man spoke with Sheryl after she’s been quiet at a business meeting and told her to start speaking up as the only female in the meetings, just like he had to speak up as the only African American in the meetings. Along with needing more women in the workplace, we also need more diversity – more people of different backgrounds.
Before I started reading, I thought the audience for this book were middle to late 20’s who either had an entry level position or for women who have been in the office for a few years. I was wrong. Even though the book offers insight and advice that everyone can use, the book is mainly for older women who are higher in the office work chain that, usually, already have a family and are being passed up for promotions.
The overall theme of the book can be summed up as women’s lack of speaking up in the workplace. This generally covers everything from isolating yourself in meetings to not speaking up during meetings because you are surrounded by people who are higher in rank and of the opposite gender. Women also make sacrifices to their careers by having families and making time for their families. This makes receiving promotions more difficult for women, according to the author. While women need to lean in more at meetings, men need to lean in more at home and help around the house. Sheryl is talking about gender equality.
There are many issues addressed in the book. Sheryl covers feminism, gender equality, business, family, career, leadership, and research. This book was put together beautifully. It flowed and had more than enough research to back up her opinions. She points out, however, that this book is not a self-help, directions on how to be successful, or a mentorship book. This is Sheryl’s manifesto. This is her life, her experiences and journey. With hard work, dedication, a few lucky moments, and some connections, she got where she is today. This book may be Generation Y’s The Feminine Mystique. No one has not tried to start a movement of this scale since, not until Sheryl Sandberg.
The reason Sheryl starts out the book with her grandmother is not only did her grandmother go to college in the 1940’s, but to also illustrate that not much has changed for women since then. The things that have changed are due to women standing up for themselves and letting their voices be heard. We have more choices in life. We get more options for picking our careers, but we still get paid less than men. Men are still preferred for most high paying jobs or jobs with power such as lawyers, doctors, and government officials. This will not stop until we all make the conscious decision to treat everyone equally and end gender stereotyping.
Overall, it was an insightful book filled with research and experiences – good and bad. It’ll be a good reference book one day for the future generations to look back to for life in the early 21st Century.