Earlier this year, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, published her first book entitled Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, commonly referred to as simply Lean In. Lean In focuses on the reasons behind the current and historical lack of women in leadership positions in business and government. Sandberg wrote the book due to the apparent stall in the women’s revolution as far as careers are concerned. She realized that only 14% of Fortune 500 executive officer positions were held by women, and that number had hardly changed at all over the past ten years. Because the ultimate goal is to have men and women split leadership roles in the United States 50/50, women seemingly need to step up their professional games.
Instead of simply blaming men or gender bias in general, Sandberg asks women to take a hefty amount of responsibility for their own actions that may be holding them back in the professional realm. Sandberg’s overall premise is that women tend to subconsciously hold themselves back in business by “lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” By identifying common mistakes even the most ambitious women repeatedly make, the book aims to empower women in the workplace and take control of their professional futures while still maintaining a satisfying home life.
Sandberg claims that women often “leave before they leave” a job. Ambitious women are taught from a young age that they will someday struggle to balance work and family, and so women in business often begin worrying about this balance long before necessary. Women will not strive for the top because they anticipate having children, and so they do not make as big of an impression as possible prior to having kids. If women achieve greater things prior to having kids, they will return to the workplace with more respect and more authority. Sandberg also asserts that men should step up more at home in order for everyone to achieve balance in their lives.
Sandberg also addresses “imposter syndrome,” or women feeling as if their success is fraudulent and they are not worthy of a certain level of success or authority. This causes women to speak up and give their opinions less, since they are not as confident in what they have to say. Silence does not make an impression and therefore quiet women in the workplace are not viewed as contenders for top positions. On the flip side, women who do speak up and aggressively assert themselves tend to be less liked, and women are usually expected to be likeable.
Sandberg admits women walk a fine line on their way to the top, but encourages women to have a confident voices and a strong presence in the workplace. Most of all, women should support each other, and at the end of her book, Sandberg recommends that women should form Lean In circles to continue this conversation and encourage the movement.