Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In has received a lot of attention since it came out. Many people praise it for its advice on how to excel in the workforce while others criticize it for the obvious privilege Sandberg possesses and writes from in her book. While Sandberg does write from a privileged standpoint there is no reason to discount her knowledge of the workforce and not take into account that as a woman, she had to struggle to break through the glass ceiling.
In her book, Sandberg discusses various issues women face in the workforce, such as the expectations that are imposed on women working in male-dominated fields. Women are expected to be part of the background, doing the work behind the scenes without speaking up, and all while men discuss facts and figures “too complex” for women to understand. This has gone on for a very long time, making it the norm in the workforce.
As a business woman, Sandberg discusses the concept of leaning in which advocates for women to take on an active role in the workplace and stop taking a back seat. Women are told over and over again that they should not speak up or else they will be seen as too aggressive or ambitious, which can be perceived as unattractive traits in a woman, yet fine for a man to possess. She states that women should find mentors and that it is unfortunate that it seems easier for men to obtain mentors in the workforce than it is for women. There is always the notion that women use their sexuality to get ahead, therefore many men in power do not want to be in that position.
Sandberg uses this book to bring light to what is going on in the workforce. She discusses issues pertaining to women with children, as well as single women and how they are seen by society and their coworkers. She discusses the difficulties faced as a working mother who felt inadequate in both her roles. Sandberg, like many women, felt she wasn’t giving her all. Her self- imposed unfair comparison to working men, as well as stay-at-home moms, did not allow her to see her true potential and what she was bringing to the table in both roles.
While Sandberg is a privileged woman, her book can resonate with any woman who is ambitious and looking to excel in the workforce. The chapters in the book highlight various problems faced on a day to day basis by women everywhere, no matter where they work. If you are the CEO of a prestigious company or a cashier at a fast food restaurant, this book can be used as a tool to navigate through the workforce. It gives people the opportunity to see and change the inequality.
The book does not question the institution in place that sees women as irrational and emotional and this has been one of the criticisms the book has received. If this institution is in place, no matter how much a woman leans in, it will not make a difference to the already socialized image of women in the workforce. While this is true, we cannot continue waiting for people to fix the issues we are faced with; we must take a stand and lean in when opportunities present themselves, no matter how big or small the impact may be.
No socialized institution can be destroyed if people do not try to change what they see wrong. Sandberg is showing women that if you want something, you must go out there and get it.
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief of Operations at Facebook. She attended Harvard and worked as the vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. Sandberg was Chief of Staff at the U.S. Treasury. She is an inspiration through her TEDTalks as well as her book Lean In. Sandberg resides in Northern California with her husband and two kids.