Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Lean - In, Sheryl Sandberg
Lean – In, Sheryl Sandberg

Changing times have been a witness to the fact that more and more women are now stepping outside the comforts of their home, joining the workplace, bringing in innovative ideas to the table and make a difference . These women are here because they are competent and not just because of some ’40:60′ gender equality rule advocated by an organization guideline.

But is it as simple as it sounds? Much like what she started saying in her infamous TEDTalk, Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 bestseller book “Lean In”, that actually explores the fundamental issue of “Why we have so few Women Leaders at Workplace?”  Having read this book a couple of times by now., sometimes cover to cover and sometimes just picking it from the middle, here is my pic on top 5 take-away!

  • Despite the fact that in the academics, more and more girls outshine the boys in school and university examinations, why is it that by the time career progresses from an entry level to leadership roles, we have fewer women sustaining through till the end?
  • A woman who has successfully climbed up the leadership channel is rarely given a due credit by  “She deserves it!!” Instead, it is always attributed to fact that “She was lucky” or “She had excellent support system backing her up”.
  • In another popular culture, it has been long portrayed that successful working women are so consumed by their careers, that they have no personal life!! They are termed to be over – ambitious and bossy and disliked equally by both men and women at workplace.
  • The general belief that working mothers are more committed to a personal life than to work penalizes women because employers assume they won’t live up to expectations of professional dedication. Unfortunately, our stereotyped society do not see women leaders to be both “competent professionals and happy mothers ” —or “even happy professionals and competent mothers”.
  • Sheryl cites an excellent experiment by Harvard Business School where two different groups are shared a story with exactly one difference—they changed the name “Heidi” to “Howard.” The groups rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent, which made sense since “their” accomplishments were completely identical. Yet while both groups respected both Heidi and Howard, Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi, on the other hand, was seen as selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for.” The same data with a single difference—gender—created vastly different impressions. Decades of social science studies have confirmed what the Heidi/Howard case study so blatantly demonstrates: we evaluate people based on stereotypes (gender, race, nationality, and age, among others.)

There are many more such questions that Sheryl raises in her book which makes it a must read. At the same time, there are others points which can be argued on though.

Sheryl seems to recommend that every women should aspire to be a leader!! But what if a woman wants to willingly give up her career for family? Being there dedicated and full time for family, does not make a woman any less. In fact a full time home maker works as hard as a professional. She is not able to justify that particular aspect very well here.

Also, Sheryl does not seem to appreciate one fact very well, that being at workplace is not a choice for some, but something they have got to do to make a living. Thus, it makes it even more difficult for them to put at stake the financial security their current job is bringing them by plunging into  what they perceive  to be a lost battle.

This book is recommended for all (men as well as women) professionals who want to be part of the change to bring more women in leadership roles, beyond the four walls of their homes.

Note: This article was first published in BT/IT Transconnect Newsletter March 2015.

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