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Lean In: Sheryl Sandberg

Do you also believe in gender equality but cringe to identify yourself as a feminist? Do you feel that you can’t talk about inequality without sounding like a cry for help, or asking for special treatment? Do you also feel that you are disliked for being successful? Do you also feel that you can do much more than you are doing today? If you identify with any of these questions, then this book is for you.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and has been identified as one of the most powerful and influential women by various Times and Forbes ranking. This is quite an inspiring and powerful book that I have come across in a long time. This book is basically an extension of her famous TED talk, Why we have too few women leaders. Below are the main ideas shared in the book.

Leadership-Ambition Gap

Sheryl suggests that the only way to improve women conditions is to get more women in leadership roles. In addition to external barriers, we are held back by the barriers that exist within us. “She is very ambitious” is not considered as compliment in our culture. Professional ambition is expected of men but is optional or negative for women.

So be fearless, fear of not being liked, of making wrong choice, of drawing negative attention, of being judged, of failure and most important of being a bad mother/wife/daughter. Ask yourself, ‘What would you do if you are fearless?’

Sit at the table

Many people especially women feel like fraudulent when praised for their accomplishment. There is a term for it called ‘imposter syndrome’. The real issue is not feeling like a fraud but feeling something deeply and profoundly about something and be completely wrong.

The only solution is to build confidence and for that ‘fake it till you feel it’. There is no perfect fit for opportunities. You have to take it and make it fit for you.

Success and Likeability

Success and likeability is positively correlated for men and negatively for women. In order to protect ourself from being disliked, we question our abilities & downplay our achievements. We put ourselves down before others can. If a women is competent, she does not seem nice enough and if she is nice she is more nice than competent.

Until society changes to view things above these stereotypes learn to withstand criticism. Allow yourself to be upset, really upset and then move on. If you are pleasing everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

It’s a Jungle Gym, not a Ladder

Careers are not a straight ladder but a jungle gym. Only one criterion matters when picking a job- fast growth. Being risk-averse means being stagnant. Apply for that job even if you are not 100% matching the skills. Learn while you go.

Adopt 2 concurrent goals: a long term goal and 18 month plan. Hard work and results should be recognized by others but when they aren’t advocating for oneself is necessary.

Are you my mentor?

Asking for mentorship is not a way to get it. A virtuoso performance can grab the attention of senior member. A mentor want to invest in mentee when they see potential. A mentee should use their time well and should be open to feedback.

You can get guidance from people without formal label. Men should expand to take more female mentee and the dogma of dating & any sexual context need to be overcome.

Seek & Speak your truth

Authentic communication is not easy but is the basis of successful relationships. We need to combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding a sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Few useful tips:

  • Speak from another person’s perspective
  • Use simple language
  • Listen as much as you speak
  • Instead of guessing ask directly

Seek & giving feedback

  • Be ready to take responsibility for mistakes
  • Speak about your own weaknesses
  • When people are honest, thank them
  • Humor can be used to deliver some honest messages
  • Being your true self to work. You can’t separate personal & professional.

Don’t leave before you leave

The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in. Choosing to leave a child in someone’s else care and return to work is a difficult decision. Only a compelling, challenging, and rewarding job will begin to make that a fair contest.

Make your partner a real partner

Even if ‘mothers know best’ is rooted in biology, it can be challenged by a willing mother and a willing father. Stop gatekeeping behaviors and treat your partner as equally capable to do chores. Traditional gender roles are also reinforced by employment policies. Men are penalized more if they take on the caregiver role.

Date all the bad boys but marry a partner who treats you as equal. Set equal relationship from the beginning. And also if a mother decides to stay at home, her work should be considered real work.

The myth of doing it all

Keep in mind that we all have real limits. Instead of pondering “Can we have it all?”, we should ask “Can we do it all?” or rather “Can I do what’s more important for me & my family?”.

Embrace the mess. Done is better than perfect. It is our responsibility to draw the line in workplace. Don’t try to meet every demand on you.

Guilt management is as important as time management. Mothers tend to overwork to compensate. Parents who work outside home are still capable of giving their children a loving and secure childhood.

Let’s start talking about it

There is a difference between men & women in their behavior and how their behavior is perceived by others. We need to be able to talk about gender without people thinking we are crying for help, asking special treatment, or about to sue.

The subject itself is a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated the same. The laws are essential but sometimes they become detrimental to people it is trying to defend.

Most of us have a ‘bias blind spot’ which we must identify & correct.

Working together towards equality

Often without realizing women internalize disparaging cultural attitudes and then echo them back. As a result, they are not just victim of sexism but they can also be perpetrators. We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So, let’s start by validating one another.

Published inBooksNon-Fiction

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