Book Review: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

Book Review: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

If you’d like to call me ignorant, you may, but the reason that I think this book’s most valuable asset is Sandberg’s astute observation that we have not moved effectively from focusing on the first woman XYZ to focusing on getting to true 50/50.  In 1972 we all applauded when the Washington Post became the first Fortune 500 to appoint a woman CEO.  45 years later only 32 are headed by a woman.  That puts us on pace to have 50% of the Fortune 500 companies headed by women in 2369!  It’s time to stop celebrating that we’ve begun the journey to equality and start panicking that the rate of improvement is so slow.

Though the book clearly wasn’t meant for men, I found it worth the read.  Women have a much clearer, much more public role in “Leaning In” then men do, but it doesn’t mean that men don’t have responsibilities.  We owe it to the women our lives, to the companies who have asked us to do what’s in their best interest, and to society as a whole to ensure that we reward the highest performance and potential regardless of gender (or anything else).  To that end, I took a few notes in the book:

  • Men need to approach home life 50/50 so that women can approach work life 50/50.  Sandberg cites a number of really disturbing statistics to back this up, but I think one of the most telling is 2007 study that finds that only 9% of dual income households split housework 50/50.
  • Couples need to approach their careers together, and sometimes the men must must lean out.  For women to be able to lean in they need to be able to take risks and absorb periods of low stability/availability.  That has to be a discussion.  Their can’t be a default expectation that the woman remain stable while the man takes the risk.
  • As far as the workplace goes, we need to be proactively looking to rid the workplace of advantages for men (because, of course, these are inefficiencies in evaluating talent).  Sandberg gives two examples of this that stuck out to me.  The first is that when she, already pregnant, asked Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin about parking for expectant mothers, they said “Of Course!”  Almost every man I know, when asked about parking for expectant mothers, would readily agree it’s a necessity.  But how many of us, like Brin and Page, would fail to ask ourselves this question?  The second story was about a Goldman Sachs executive who only did 1:1 mentoring or networking at breakfast or lunch because he was aware many young women wouldn’t want to ask him to dinner or accept his invitation for dinner.  Are there areas in our professional world where only men have the access to leaders or resources necessary to be successful?