Monthly Archives: October 2013

Lean in

Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)

This book about women and leadership, by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, has gotten a lot of media attention. It is the assigned reading for my discussion group about women in STEM fields. If I didn’t know that the author was a Facebook executive who got her start in business through her association with Lawrence Summers, I would say that this is an excellent book with a lot of good advice. Unfortunately I am very uncomfortable with Facebook’s cavalier attitude towards privacy (“get over it” is a direct quote from Mark Zuckerberg) and with Lawrence Summers’ public attitude toward professional women, so anything Sandberg says is suspect.

But Sandberg does seem to have done her research and offers some excellent tips for women who want to become business leaders. “Lean in” is a poor and easily misunderstood slogan, but the concept behind it is fairly sound. Basically she says that women often sabotage their own chances of getting ahead in business, though she doesn’t discount the very real discrimination that exists. For some women this is by being underconfident and reluctant to promote oneself; others are so concerned about barriers to success (such as conflicts between work and family demands) that they turn down the upward mobility opportunities offered to them. This is an important addition to the public conversation about women and work, regardless of whose name is attached to it.


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Christianity for the rest of us

Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, 2006).

This is an excellent book for a small audience: members of traditional Protestant denominations in the United States – the Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Presbyterians. The fact that it is a small audience, and how to make it bigger, is the point of the book. In recent decades Christianity in the United States has become almost synonymous with the evangelical, fundamentalist brand of Christian that fills the center of the country and votes Republican. The traditional denominations, where people are more concerned with being welcoming than being born again, have suffered steep declines in membership. Christian historian Bass visited congregations all over the country which were growing, to find out what they were doing right. She found a number of common practices among them, which she calls the ten signposts of renewal: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty.  These churches retained their welcoming attitude and appreciation of diversity, but distinguished themselves from secular liberal organizations by re-emphasizing the spiritual dimensions of Christianity.

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