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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