Book review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

The first time I heard of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, was when she made her TEDTalk’s speech in 2010. Her inspiring speech detailed some of the challenges many females face in the various aspects of their lives. In her more recent book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, she discussed in more detail, the challenges many females face in not only their professional career, but their personal lives as well.

She explains what she believes to be why females are encountering so many personal and professional difficulties. This book is peppered with her personal anecdotes which make for a wonderfully engaging tale but her points hold true as they are further supported by hard cold facts. More often than not I found that ‘feminist’ books contain too many personal stories or too many facts. Sandberg has done well in striking the right balance between both, highlighting the fact that these challenges hold true as much for senior female leaders as they do for young female graduates.

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‘Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success’ – Lean In

Many mothers and working women have read and given more positive than negative feedback but I can only take the perspective of a young female Gen Y, who is just starting her professional career. While reading through each page, it wasn’t surprising when Sandberg mentioned that society still holds certain expectations of women. It was more surprising that women had a greater tendency than men to hold back, hesitating because of ‘being afraid’. Whether it is of being perceived as ‘being too smart’, ‘too nice’ or ‘too competent’, it is often a mistaken belief that the female traits of being ‘nice’ and being ‘competent’ are mutually exclusive. Reflecting back, there were so many choices that I made in my 20 years, where I had hesitated and ended up regretting it. If this was the case for me over 20 years, then what about everyone else?

Sheryl Sandberg emphasises the ever-present hurdle of society’s expectations of women which must be overcome. Women have always been pictured in a nurturing role, hence when they don’t conform to that role, it is odd by society’s standards. Over the years this has been improving, women don’t have to be confined to the restrictions of being a ‘domestic goddess’.

A clear message that has come across is that to make this positive change and realisation happen, the actions do not solely lie with women but with men too. In their role as partners, leaders, workmates, there are many men that can contribute to the growth of female leaders in the workplace.

Lean In is an inspiring and eye-opening read for both men and women, regardless of generations and cultures. Personally, I believe the personal and professional hurdles she mentioned are not limited to only women, they are applicable to everyone. The only difference is the extent and the impact of these hurdles varies. Lean In is not a self-help book. It is a book which attempts to inspire many people to be involved in the change not just the reader.

What did you think of Lean In or Sheryl Sandberg’s opinions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Jenny Yang

Jenny Yang is the Leaders in Heels Tech Editor and aims to inspire people through innovation. She loves exploring creative new ideas in technology and realising their potential to change people’s lives, particularly those of busy women.

As well as working as a business analyst specialising in information systems, Jenny is also a university scholarship student studying Bachelor of Information Systems (Co-op). She’s worked in a big four accounting firm as an accountant/consultant as well as in the not-for-profit sector as a social media consultant. As president of BITSA (Information Systems Student Association), she’s motivated by the rising demand for technology and believes that all successes are possible when driven by a combination of hard work and luck.