Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

by Sheryl Sandberg, Nell Scovell

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead is a book about feminism. Now, many of us will react with annoyance or even disgust when we hear someone proclaim themselves a “feminist,” as in our minds, we associate feminism with bra-burning, man-hating, anti-shaving monsters who push their crazy propaganda on people. The strange thing is, most of us are technically feminist in our views—for all feminism stands for is equality across genders. 

Lean In focuses on how feminism can impact women trying to achieve success in their professional careers. Professional working women face a whole host of problems that men don’t go through—they have to constantly prove themselves to the world and to themselves, juggle taking care of their family and their job, and worst of all, deal with all the criticism and snide comments directed at them for not conforming to traditional gender roles. Lean In is written by a professional working woman (who has faced all these problems and more) as a guidebook for any women looking to become successful. 

We have therefore compiled a list of actions that will help you implement the advice given in this book. Keep in mind that this book is directed toward women, so the actions will work best if carried out by women. They won’t just help you improve your professional career, they will also help you in the areas of interpersonal relationships, self-confidence, and self-development.

Summary Notes

The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

“We as women fail to put ourselves forward, but we also fail to notice and correct this gap.”

Equal opportunity does not always translate into professional achievement. For much of history, women stayed at home to mind the family while men went out to work. Although nowadays many more women work, having to choose between a family and their career is a common choice. 

There are many factors that contribute to this - upbringing and culture, for example, can make women more reserved and less assertive. This could result in them being too shy to ask for a higher salary or cause them to feel like they should be less ambitious. Another factor is the lack of workplace flexibility; it’s tough to advance in your career when you have to plan your schedule around kids. 

However, this does not mean that women are inherently incapable of excelling in the workplace, or that all women should work instead of being a homemaker. What it means is that women who want to focus on their careers should lean into it and do so without fear or hesitation.

Actions to take

It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder

“I never thought about what I wanted to be, but I thought a lot about what I wanted to do.”

When looking for a job, the one thing to keep in mind is to look for companies with fast growth. When companies grow slowly or remain stagnant, there is less to do and too many people, leading to unnecessary internal politics. When companies are growing fast, there are more things to do than people to do them, which opens up several opportunities for you.

It is important to understand that men and women approach work very differently. Men tend to focus on managing their business while women tend to focus on managing their career. While most men are looking for answers to their problems, women tend to look for a mentor that can guide them. While mentorship is crucial for career progression, it can also create a relationship of dependence on others - this is something to avoid.

A critical skill is an effective communication. Whether it’s expressing an opinion, feedback, or giving advice, being clear and concise is necessary so that the other person fully understands you. Remember that miscommunication is a two-way street - if the answers you receive are not satisfactory, ask more questions.

Actions to take

Don’t Leave Before You Leave

“We need to encourage men to be more ambitious in their homes.”

Having a child is a major reason why women don’t succeed in the workplace. Having a child itself is not the issue, however, but how women tend to deal with their careers in the face of childbirth is. Women rarely make one big decision to leave the workforce. Rather, it’s a series of small decisions that result in them slowly scaling back from work as they begin to prioritize the idea - not the actual physical action - of having a child. 

Years later, when they actually do give birth, they have made so many sacrifices and accommodations that their career has taken a hit. The choice to leave work then becomes quite easy, after all, it was made a long time ago.

Being a mother and having a career is certainly not an easy task. It is important that your partner contributes equally to the household in terms of childcare and other related activities. In fact, paternal involvement results in a ton of benefits for your child, including improving their overall well-being and cognitive skills. This is something that needs to be established at the start of any relationship so that when you have a child, your partner is not suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of family-related work he has to do.

Actions to take

Let’s Start Talking About It

“The world has a way of reminding women that they are women, and girls that they are girls.”

Casual sexism in the workplace is exceedingly common - pretty much every woman has experienced it. However, many people - men and women - are under the impression that the feminists in the 60s and 70s have done all the work and equality has been achieved. This is not the case, there is still a long way to go. 

To their credit, many institutions have made great strides in sensitizing people to gender issues, especially sexual harassment. To continue this progress, it is important to keep raising the issues women continually face in the workplace.

Women must work together against sexism as there is strength in numbers. Instead of tearing each other down, we should build each other up. After all, we are all working towards a common goal.

Actions to take

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