I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, "Yes, I have it all.'" Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.
Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In was released at a time when memoirs and self-help books by famous people were quite the rage. That in itself turned me away from this book. Plus, the fact that it was seemed to be catered more towards a woman reader rather than any reader but with an emphasis on women topics made me not want to read it. I prefer to read a feminist book that I can recommend to a male reader as well - there is no way only one half of the world can fix the problems that ail that same half.
Last month, however, I went through an increased interest in feminist matters, bordering on obsession. At that point, Lean In came into my radar again. This time, I was keen to read it (interesting how your perceptive or general mood can influence your approach to a book). It was also interesting that this book was the June pick at my library's book club, so copies were limited, but they had one last copy available and I lucked out.
Let me say at the outset that I loved this book and totally related to it. One comment I read in many reviews of this book was that readers were having a tough time relating to this book because Sandberg writes Lean In from the perspective of someone working in a corporate industry, and after reading this book, I could understand that comment. Lean In is definitely very tailored to the corporate business woman and while I will only cautiously recommend this to someone who doesn't work in a company with the corporate ladder structure (with raises, promotions, managers, employees, or projects to manage), there are several valuable tips peppered throughout this book, so eventually anyone would benefit from reading it, men and women alike.
The book reads mostly as an essay collection. Sandberg focuses on a different topic or problem in each essay and I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. Her essays are certainly very personal and she talks about how gender had come in the way of many her actions and decisions. I loved that she inserted herself into many of the essays and not just tried to narrate how other women were doing it wrong. Personally, I have let gender interfere with many of my decisions as well and not been aware that I was doing that. Reading Lean In helped me identify them.
Sandberg talks a lot about how women have culturally and historically held themselves back - girls grow up believing that there are some things they cannot or are not allowed to do. She doesn't quite have a solution to that problem - it would require a more universal solution. But she does suggest how women can get out of its influence. She also talks about childbirth and maternity leave, and how a woman's pregnancy or plan to start a family can often derail her career, how because of a fear of that happening, many women tend to think that they always have to choose between career and family.
I loved Sandberg's honest take on many topics that affect women who work in any kind of environment - sexism and bias are very much a reality in many workplaces. It sure helps to know their signs and know that no one needs to take all that crap. It also helps to know that sometimes a woman can encourage all that crap by not speaking out (of course, that is no reason for anyone to be sexist). If you work (or plan to work) in a job that is very male-dominated or follows a corporate ladder environment, this book is definitely a must-read.
I borrowed this book from the good old library.