Lean In: For Graduates
Facebook CEO and author Sheryl Sandberg is pivoting off her earlier success with a new edition of LEAN IN, a book that started a trend that became a phenomenon. LEAN IN: FOR GRADUATES targets young women just beginning their careers, though it reaches out to others as well. Sandberg encourages all women to "dream big" when plotting out their work life and assessing their potential.
As an example of how women's workplace equality is not happening, Sandberg cites a study based on the accomplishments of businesswoman Heidi Roizen, a successful venture capitalist who organized her network of contacts by maximizing her personal magnetism. This study was given to students at Columbia Business School to analyze, but half the students were told Roizen's first name was "Howard." Readers found the made-up "Howard" to be an appealing person, while Heidi was seen as "selfish" and not someone you'd want to work for.
"LEAN IN: FOR GRADUATES will offer aid and comfort to a new generation of workforce women, and to females in all phases of life and career."
The underlying fact is that, even now, women in the business and corporate worlds are seen as anomalous --- fish out of water. The stereotypes of who should be in charge of child care vs. who should manage the money persist, and are not even especially subtle. Sandberg describes the classic lose-lose scenario: a woman who tries to fit in and be one of the guys will soon find that she is not (Sandberg drew the line at smoking a cigar), while a woman who succeeds may be cursed with the assumption that "being a woman" was what got her that promotion.
Sandberg's role is to exhort and encourage women to "lean in" --- that is, adopt the aggressive posture of males in the workplace. Even something as simple as standing with legs apart, hands on hips, can boost testosterone and make a woman feel stronger and more confident in any situation she is facing. Since the original LEAN IN, women's empowerment groups based on its principles have been cropping up. One appeal of Sandberg's message is that, as she often stresses, it is not only for women who are ambitious and want to rise to the top of the corporate ladder, but also for those in different phases of work life. She doesn't discourage women who still want to be mothers or part-time workers, for example, and she has advice for life situations as well as workplace scenarios. She also prods men to join in the battle for gender equality.
This enhanced edition of LEAN IN includes practical advice particularly geared for college grads, such as "Proofread your resume as if your job depended on it." The second half of the book is comprised of inspiring and sometimes gritty true stories from women (and men) who have observed, experienced and helped overcome gender barriers. Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, speaks of battling race as well as gender bias. Mental health counselor Marie Tueller recalls the sheer courage it took to speak out against the man who raped her, refusing to "shut up" until he was behind bars.
LEAN IN: FOR GRADUATES will offer aid and comfort to a new generation of workforce women, and to females in all phases of life and career. Proceeds from this very worthwhile book will be donated to Sandberg’s nonprofit organization, LeanIn.org.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on April 10, 2014