What I should have spent a good portion of this weekend doing –> Packing for our upcoming move (in 3 weeks to be exact). More on this later.
What I spent a good portion of this weekend doing –> Reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, the current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
I decided to download the book on to my Kindle this past Friday after listening to my boss rave about it for almost a month. Chances are you’ve heard of this book as well – it’s sparked quite the debate about women in the workplace.
The very basic idea behind the book (this is not a full review as I’m only 50% through) is that women – all women) – need to lean in when it comes to their careers. I think we can all agree that women face a number of barriers that prevent them from pursuing a career. A number of them are external but quite a few are internal barriers – our own self doubt if you will. Sheryl lays out facts and figures, stories from her own professional “jungle gym” career, as well as accounts from other women in her life to illustrate the point that we need to, again, lean in to our ambitions.
As you can imagine, a lot of people disagree with Sheryl’s point of view. Just go to Google and type in Lean In reviews and you’ll quickly find out why. Many people think it’s very easy, and I agree, for her to talk about leaning in. She was fortunate enough to grow up in a well to do family, receive an Ivy league education, marry a super successful man, and have lots of help raising her children. Not all women are so lucky. And not all woman dream of making it to the top of their profession.
But putting all that aside, Sheryl’s points about how women are perceived/treated by the world from a very young age, what we need to do and how we need to behave to be successful, how women treat/judge other women, etc. all rang true for me. Regardless of profession, the playing field is not balanced and equal.
Even though I’m only half way through the book, so many thoughts and examples from my own life pop up in my head as I read the stats and examples Sheryl lays out.
The experience that is the most sticky for me occurred in 2009 when I interviewed for an internship with my former employer. I was 25 years old, a first year MBA student, and eager to begin my career in the field of HR. Part of the interview process required us to work in teams of four to present a case study – all while a group of interviewers watched us interact, from beginning to end. Our team of four was made up of very nice people who didn’t want to step on each other’s toes. After a few minutes of polite discussion, I started to speak up. We had an hour to figure this thing out, and in my mind, we weren’t going to get anywhere if we didn’t start making decisions and getting our ideas on paper. After that, the rest of the team started speaking up, debating, and really discussing the issue. We successfully presented the case study, and all four of us were offered summer internships.
During my first week on the job, I got a phone call from the internship program manager to discuss how things were going. Towards the end of the conversation, she mentioned that team case study and the fact that I needed to work on being a team player and not being so assertive. Huh?
I must have done a good job turning around my behavior because I was offered a full-time job post-graduation. I even received the MVP award for my intern class. At the time, I was proud of myself. In retrospect, I’m a little upset. In my mind, I exerted leadership skill to get the job done and was marked as a bossy woman who didn’t listen to others. If a man had taken charge, the way I did, I wonder if he would’ve received the same feedback. Food for thought…
Regardless of whether you are a working woman or not, I highly recommend this book. If nothing else, it will make you think. Leaning in isn’t about being a ruthless bitch, it’s about doing what makes you happy and not being apologetic for going after your dreams – whatever they may be.