How to Lean In at Work

I picked up Lean In hoping to find a female role model, a woman who would inspire me to reach for the next levels in my career, someone whose wisdom I could pass on to other young women I work with. Instead I found myself berated for not being an All Star Go-Getter. Sandberg made me feel like it was my faout that women don’t take leadership positions in our country. Her advice was that I needed to “act like a man,” but if I act like a man people (including other women) will respect me less. Women are expected to be caregivers and humble so they need to play games to negotiate raises and get their team members to do their work.

I wonder, who are these weak, insecure, trembling, scared women that Sandberg uses in her examples? I cannot relate at all. My friends and the women I work with are confident go-getters who tackle challenges. They work through problems with the motto “if at first I don’t succeed I’ll try again.” They don’t let fear stop them.

Sandberg warns her readers of the perils of “having it all”, yet she expects you to do it all anyway. Work through having children, make sure your partner can take time off work to help with children, take promotions, lean in, and work so much that you end up having to send emails while going to the bathroom. Sandberg thinks it is okay to assume that women don’t jump at the chance for a new challenge are because they want to have children. She even thinks it is okay to ask them, “are you not taking this chance because one day you want to have children?” If someone asked me this I would be mortified. I’m insulted just reading it. After Sandberg tells you to “do it all,” she explains that she chose not to take a promotion after finding out she was pregnant. Apparently, she is the exception to her own rules.

I work in a field predominantly made up of men. I am usually the only woman in the room. While I have trouble with much of Sandberg’s advice, I think the best take-away from this book is that you can’t let fear or your own insecurities stop you from going after your goals. Even if your goal is scary or challenging you should still go for it. If only the book concentrated more on how readers can overcome different types of insecurities or focused on real career navigation techniques.

Sandberg declares that the only success for women is reaching the very top rung of their careers. However, what about those of us who want to do really well in our careers but whose sense of purpose is to work to live, not live to work? What is the purpose of having a partner or children if you’re not there to enjoy time with them? I think although we want to be great, we don’t all want to spend only an hour over dinner with our families just so we can go straight back to sending emails. I think women of my generation value purpose outside of the job. Careers are important to us but they are not the be-all and end-all all of a successful life.

Have you read Lean In? Did you find Sheryl an inspiring mentor? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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