When I picked “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, I did not know what I was in for. I thought that an American, especially COO of Facebook, may not talk about those things that matter to me. As I read through the book, I was in for shock after shock, and I found myself nodding time and again. There were points that made me feel, “Ah! So it was not just me!” and those that expressed what I had never expressed before.
For the uninformed, “Lean In” is the author Sandberg’s advice to women, especially career women, on how to make their presence felt at the workplace – Lean In. I found that some points are relevant for all women.
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- As a woman who has juggled career, studies, family and home for a good part of my life and also taken career breaks, I found Sandberg’s ideas sensible. Though the book has drawn flak from certain quarters, I found it well researched and well presented. I found the book striking the right chords all along.
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- There was an occasional feel of “too much of statistics”. The author probably used the statistics to substantiate some of her claims, but it looked like a statistical report.
With a desire to present all my learning from the book, I had postponed this review for more than 2 months. Finally, I decided that I shall list ‘only’ the most important takeaways from the book. Read the book for benefiting from all the nuggets of wisdom.
- Women can have both – career and family. For men, the assumption is that they can have both. Women are told over and over again that they have to choose. Calling it “Work-life balance”, as though the two were opposed, will ensure that one loses out. She says that women can have both families and careers and thrive while doing so. So, my dear friends, take heart!
- Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success. Women tend to mute their achievements because they want to be liked. (Here, I differ, there are some men too who tend to do this. Here, let us substitute women with ‘those who do not self-market’.) If a woman is competent, she doesn’t appear nice enough and vice versa. This is because of the gender stereotyping which works against women. This is not the case with men, says the author. So, readers,
proudly proclaim your achievements!
- Don’t leave before your leave. This one is probably the most important one, in my opinion. Don’t give up your career, or a chance at a project, thinking of how it could become impossible or difficult. Women tend to give up thinking about a career, assuming that when they have a family, it will be tough. Sandberg’s advice: “Don’t leave before your leave”. Now, that means, cross the bridge when you reach it.
- The myth of doing it all. Yes, yes, the superwoman that all of us dread. She does not exist, reassures Sandberg. What a relief. Indra Nooyi said it, and now Sandberg confirms it. Will someone tell the film-makers and ad-makers, who show the superwoman? Here is Sowmya Rajendran’s response on her blog to understand how we hate the superwoman image. This glorified image isn’t something new -Virginia Woolf has rallied against this Angel in the House.
- Make your partner a real partner. She believes that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. Agreed. Full marks to the lady for declaring this truth.
- Empower the men at home. Many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical. Stop doing this “maternal gatekeeping”. Sandberg advices to let the husband “put the diaper on the baby any way he wants as long as he’s doing it by himself. … even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head.” Listen, listen! Let him do as long as he does.
- Guilt management is as important as time management. Stop feeling guilty about the time spent away from children at work. Identify your real priorities at home and at work. There is no need for self-flagellation. Success is making the best choices we can. Stay guilt-free, ok?
- Stop the mommy wars. The ideal career women need to prove that, although they weren’t always there, their children are fine, fine, fine… Women who have rejected the ideal career norm and settled for a slower career or no career need to prove that their compromise was necessary for the good of their families. Each group judges the other group and these are the mommy wars. This one is too familiar, isn’t it?
For all women, career women or otherwise!