Review of Lean In

Skylar Wooden and Katie Butler

December 14, 2016

What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, is a favorite of ours. Sandberg’s mission is to empower women in the workplace to identify and overcome gender inequality.

It’s no secret that the playing field is uneven. Women are seen through a different set of eyes—as if estrogen will wilt the growth of business. The author discusses the obstacles women face in a positive light, rather than presenting them as a never-ending struggle. Sandberg believes that women and men who recognize workplace inequality can do the most to stop it. We agree. So, go ahead, lean in. It’s a good feeling.

Without giving away the entire book, here are a few of our favorite takeaways:

1. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Sandberg hits us with a question that could easily provoke an existential crisis. The answer to this question is vital. If you could have it all, what would the “all” be? Everyone has a secret “what if?” dream.

Stop making your goals seem so unattainable. We were terrified to write a blog. We mulled it over for months. We were afraid of looking foolish, afraid of someone disliking what we wrote, afraid to fail. Sandberg’s question hits all the right notes. She did what she was afraid to do. She wants to help you do the same.

2. Work-life balance

You may initially expect Sandberg to warn against family life, seeing as it would be distracting from your career. On the contrary, the author encourages managers to be open with employees about their family planning.

Women so often feel as though they have to choose between having children and being devoted to their career. And if they choose both, they’re somehow neglecting one for the other. Sandberg lets us know that we can have both. It takes practice, compromise, and boundaries, but it can be done.

3. Men: allies, not enemies

You may also expect an anti-men agenda. However, Sandberg brings men into the conversation, encouraging them to be mindful of ways they can help work against inequality in the workplace. Women can do so much to open doors for themselves, but men can be an ally.

She encourages women to allow men to take over home responsibilities. If you have a husband, boyfriend, or partner at home, it’s not your place to do it all—do half. The notion that men can’t do the task ‘as well as I can’ is not always true. If it is, they’ll learn. Working and having a family is what many define as “having it all.” Well, by having it all, we must be doing it all, right? Wrong. Well, maybe, but you must be exhausted.

4. Fear of coming off as threatening (bitchy, if you will)

The true story of Heidi Roizen, an outgoing entrepreneur, was given to a number of Harvard Business School students. Half of the students were given the original story and the other half received the same story but with one major difference—the name was changed to Howard. The study showed that students who read about Howard deemed him a good employee with a strong work ethic. Heidi, however, was characterized as selfish and a bad employee.

So ladies, if you’ve ever felt nervous to be outgoing/outspoken in your career, know that your feelings are valid. Maybe you feel the need to use exclamation points and extra-friendly language in emails to older male employees? You feel that way for a reason. Here is a time to identify the issue and overcome it. And for the men, if a female is blunt, don’t take it the wrong way. She’s just doing her job.

5. The jig is up

Sandberg teaches us about Imposter Syndrome. This syndrome is the feeling of inferiority when receiving a compliment. A person feels as though they are being complimented because they have fooled people into thinking they’re intelligent or hardworking. This is not a foreign feeling to women, and at times men, because it’s difficult to feel like what’s been done is good enough.

The person finds themselves waiting for everyone to find out they’re a fraud. Try to keep in mind that you are being complimented because you did well. No one is trying to dig up your faults.

6. Authentic Communication

“We are so rarely brave enough to tell the truth.” Sheryl, you speak to our hearts. We have been practicing our whole lives for professional positions. We’ve trained ourselves to monitor what we say, making sure that everything that comes out of our mouths is appropriate. (This is how we all made it out of childhood with varying levels of anxiety.) If you say something that may be deemed inappropriate, you’re taught to feel shame because of what that may have caused someone else to feel. Stop.

Not being honest will get you nowhere. If an employer asks you in a performance review if you’re happy, and you say yes, nothing will happen. You’re not helping one person, not even them. We sometimes have the “well they should know on their own” attitude. When in fact, maybe they do, but why would they say that when they’re also trying very hard to not offend you either?

These are the lessons that stuck with us the most. We guarantee that you’ll have your own favorite lessons. Tell us about them! Leave a comment below. We hope you buy the book! Find it on our resource page. This is a list of our favorites. Any purchase from that page supports Pare and Flourish so that we can bring you more content, just like this. Look out for our next article on how to navigate networking conversations!

*We have not been paid to write this review. We feel strongly about its message and want to share it with you.

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