In the vast landscape of career choices, women have carved remarkable paths in teaching, nursing, research science, and small-scale businesses. However, the numbers are scarce when we talk about ‘Women in Tech’, and leadership positions seem elusive for many. What intrigued me about this book was the opportunity to comprehend the challenges women encounter in workplaces and, more importantly, to uncover effective strategies to surmount them, all written by a woman with extensive experience in the tech industry. The book promises a compelling exploration of the unique dynamics women face in pursuit of success.

When we hear ‘CEO/COO’ of a company, we hardly imagine a female one, which concerns the writer Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl, with two Harvard degrees, has always thought of working at a non-profit or in government to make an impact. Nevertheless, she knew that she would become the fifth most powerful woman in the world, as listed by Forbes magazine.

She emphasises changing what Warren Buffet said about his success as he competes against only half of the population. Sheryl strives for an equal world and envisions more women in leadership positions. In the book, she phrased the word ‘Lean in’, which means to empower women and get on to thrive on the way to success. Except for some disclaimers, I recommend reading it specifically for self-development. It would be wrong to say every woman must read it, but it has something for each individual, such as parents, teachers, bosses, executives, colleagues, friends and husbands.

In the first chapter, Sheryl lays out some of the complex challenges women face, be it societal or internal obstacles that hold them back from learning in their careers. In the book, Sheryl focuses on adjustments and differences to ensure an equal world for both men and women. Sheryl believes there is no single solution to it, but what can you, me, and everyone out there do to ease the path for women to pursue any goal vigorously? Throughout the book, she focuses on adaptations and disparities to foster equality between men and women. Sheryl acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all solution but rather a collective effort required from individuals to smoothen the path for women in their pursuit of any goal. She shares her lifelong experiences and observations backed up with hard data and academic research. The book makes the case for being ambitious in any pursuit. She does recognise the contributions of her generation, who fought to give all of us choices, but she still feels the need not to stop talking about the injustices and barriers that linger around a woman’s life. Some research would also astonish you, such as ‘Right from childhood, girls don’t aspire to be in leadership positions’, often due to societal perceptions. It is seen as unnatural and unsupported for women to aspire to lead in workplaces along with a family. I liked how she questions why being an ambitious woman is not a compliment and being not ambitious is. Not to blame society only, but lack of confidence, self-doubt, self-deprecation, not asking for a raise, and thinking that I’m not capable enough are there too, which made me realise my unnoticed insecurities. So, if you are ready to start your career path, reading ‘Lean In’ would be a great start. Striving within yourself is to get rid of the internal shackles that we barely take heed of. It helped me cope with the rejections and embrace the successes I had.

The book was most helpful in reminding me that I have to confront my imposter syndrome and not wait to be asked. Girls need to stop feeling like fraud when being appreciated or rewarded. Women should leave the thought of pleasing everyone.
“If you please, everyone, you are not making enough progress,” she writes.

She also guides us on how to find a mentor while not asking for it at all. In many of the chapters, Sheryl mentors how communication can be a useful tool to resolve any issue backing us up. The notion of ‘Don’t leave before you leave’ struck a chord, highlighting how women often prematurely disengage from pursuing big roles because they think they won’t be able to manage it wholeheartedly as they will be married soon and have children. These insights have led me to think wisely and focus on the present moment!

Another poignant takeaway from this book is that no one can have it all or do it all, but rather, negotiating and delegating tasks is more important by asking more from the partners. Many reviewers have slammed the book with Sheryl’s privilege of having a supporting network. Every woman would agree on ‘Make our partner our real partner’, which is to make men lean in for the family and contribute to the home, which can be done only if women let them. She beautifully gives examples of men in her life who do it. Unexpectionally, she found herself in the conflict that arose between being a good employee and a responsible parent.

“It will be messy, but embrace the mess,” she advises.

Once, when she worked under Larry Summers during her Treasury years, they worked on his speech, oblivious to time. It was 3 a.m. She was in the awful situation of leaving his room at that time. She later recalled and concluded that this evasiveness must end. If applied, this opens up a list of questions about the credibility of women’s safety.

Like how society will function if no evasiveness is in front of women and men can do whatever they wish to, with no need for dignified behaviour or formal talks. Evasiveness intends to have boundaries and respect for women. This book does what every feminist diatribe does, i.e. fails to give recognition to the great job a woman does – homemaker, motherhood, technocrat. Women and men have different dynamics and ethics. Apart from this, there are many instances where Sheryl seems contradictory. She claimed, “I am not completely comfortable with my life choices”.This is a question on the lean in culture, which is shown as ‘fit for all’ in the book. The unfortunate part of the marathon of leaning in is having the ‘Parent Guilt’. When both parents are working, they don’t get to be involved in their children’s lives as much. This book helps women find the right work-life management skills so that leaning in becomes achievable; on the contrary, it is not universal to all. Women have to stop looking at themselves from others’ eyes. So, Lean in whatever place you desire, whether in the boardroom or home, but not at the cost of guilt and burnout.

1 Comment

  1. Talha Rahman

    There is a book name Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the Workplace
    by Marissa Orr

    This book has somewhat very logical criticism on above mentioned book.

    I personally think above book has both pros & cons, yes it ask women to thrive in corporate, some advices are awsm,

    but.. it also gets out of line when it even has criticism on way “femineity” is therein women, na

    A women in corporate world must not be carbon copy of men, she has here own character value set of skills that can bring more inclusivity & diversity … so yes

    Reply

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