The fourth book in my challenge to ready 12 non-fiction books in 2013 is Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.
I’m not one for self-help books, or business books about how various people became successful (so I’ve never previously read any), but I’d heard so much about Sandberg’s book that I felt compelled to pick it up.
And I’m glad that I did.
I found Lean In a great read from start to finish, and Sandberg (COO of Facebook, there, obligatory mention over) made some points that really hit home with me.
Her anecdotes combined with statistics (lots of statistics) and the research she quoted meant her arguments weren’t just things I think and feel at work on a regular basis, but genuine problems with the world of work and its attitude towards gender as a whole.
Granted, there were some bits of Lean In that felt a little patronising, especially the chapter where Sandberg talks about making sure you have a good man by your side to help out, a fact she thinks will help drive equality in the workplace and at home. That’s as maybe, but it also ignores all the single people out there, not to mention all the single-parent families, and people whose home lives may not be the conventional 2.4.
But Sandberg is the first to acknowledge that she is very lucky – she has a supportive husband and the pair are in a financial situation that makes it easier for them to afford quality childcare. Sandberg is also quick to admit that she sometimes contradicts herself, at one point telling women to sit at the table, and at another acknowledging there have been times in her own life where she definitely did not sit at the table.
One of the most interesting points in the book comes when Sandberg discusses the concept of feminism, and how reluctant women (including her younger self) are to label themselves as feminists. She makes the point that a feminist is “someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”.
I didn’t expect to enjoy Lean In, due to my scepticism about self-help books, but Sandberg’s book isn’t really a step-by-step guide to how to be a successful woman in business, it’s more a discussion on women in business and a treatise on changing opinions so that gender is no longer an issue. Sandberg’s book has left me confident that I’m a feminist (something I thought I was but didn’t admit to much). Best of all, it’s given me the confidence to lean in. Watch out world.