As someone who is a) keen to make a mark on the world, b) passionate about online and c) a woman, I was interested to read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. After all, she’s the 40-something-year-old Harvard-educated COO of Facebook, ranked in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People and estimated to be worth over $1bn due to savvy stock investments. Picking up a copy of her book was a no-brainer.
Lean In is an inspirational, well-meaning book; the theory behind it is that women need to be more assertive in ‘leaning in’ in the workplace; making the most of opportunities that male counterparts would seize without a second though, as well as being able to juggle home-work balances fairly with the help of partners/husbands.
A lot of the book relies heavily on assumptions; that the reader is as highly motivated as Sandberg; that the reader has circumstances that parallel Sandberg’s. In fact, the ideal reader is pretty keen to be Sheryl – something which alienates readers looking for an empowering read, who will instead find a well-meaning tome, crammed with unlikely scenarios.
The end message: you can have children, and a career, if you accept that it will be tricky. A partner who is happy to 50-50 responsibility with you (cleaning the dishes! Taking out the ‘trash’!) is an essential. As she observes. it’s difficult being an assertive woman, who knows what she wants; be too pushy, in any scenario, and you’ll be considered a ‘bitch’. (Whereas a man would simply be going after what he wanted – whether it was a promotion or getting you to do the laundry.)
For someone like myself, who is childless and at the start of my career, the book is fascinating; I didn’t learn anything from it per se, but I enjoyed reading Sandberg’s casually-dropped-in anecdotes (Mark Zuckerberg wooed her from Google to Facebook via a series of dinner, every night, for weeks, before she accepted his offer) and trying to work out how I could apply her career insights to my own.
Personally? I really enjoyed Lean In, although through conversations with acquaintances I know it has been met with not-universal approval. The book is well-written and honest, and I like the theory behind the ‘lean in’ mantra – pushing yourself forward, rather than hiding behind yourself is a good motto to adopt in any scenario, not just in the workplace.
It’s a gee-ing up book, written to make you re-assess where your career is going – it’s encouraging rather than revolutionary. Plus, it comes with the added bonus that Sandberg is a great, easy-to-read writer; I zipped through the book in less than three days.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is available to buy here for £11.55 (RRP: £16.99)