The Book Club: Lean In.

I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s much buzzed about book, Lean In, last night.  As I sit here reflecting on the book, Sandberg’s message, and my thoughts, I’m trying to see what value I can add to a whirlwind of conversation that has transpired from her novel.

Before the launch of her book and since the days the book launched, praise, criticism, positivity, scoffs have been shared.  Some have argued why women should read the book and others have rolled their eyes at it.  My favorite criticism was from Simona Covel at Inc.com, “Stop Selling Me Porn” who while I agree that work-life balance books have become the “new porn” for women, I think she missed the message of Sandberg’s book.

lean in

As a young, ambitious, twenty-something, I’ve struggled with being heard and at times I have been overshadowed by my male peers at the same level.  I drew parallels to many of her stories and cringed reading Sandberg’s lesson on hand raising and being acknowledged in meetings (or Sandberg likes to refer to as “leaning in”).  I personally dealt with hesitation and pulled back when I should have been leaning in.  I was lucky to be able to overcome or in my case, forced to overcome it.  Early on I had a great male sponsor who openly asked for my opinion and having provided a dumb response my first time, I made sure not to let that happen again.  I also gained tenure at the start up I’m with and colleagues – both senior and junior staff – started to turn to me for questions and advice and I had no choice but to start contributing to meetings or watch the team backtrack.  Sandberg’s book would have came in handy before I entered the working world.

Depending on where you are at your career and personal life, this book will speak differently to you.  As a twenty-something in the early stages of my career, Lean In offers great, actionable advice I can put in practice to help me steer the next 5, 10, 15 years of my career.  There were many messages, stories, facts that made me reflect, cringe, fume, and nodded in agreement.  Here are the five key aha! moments of Lean In:

1) “A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on past accomplishments“.  This struck a chord.  I first saw and recognize this in high school and have seen it multiple times since.

2) The most important decision you will make in life will be the partner you choose.  Find someone that will put in 50/50 and be there along the ride.

3) Be your own advocate.  When hard work and results aren’t being recognized, it’s up to you to promote yourself, make the ask, and challenge yourself.  Change the results of the McKinsey report and focus on both your accomplishments and potential.

4) The movement goes both ways.  We need to promote, encourage, and be inclusive to men who choose to stay at home.  Same with women feeling shut out in the office, stay at home dads also face the same barriers.  Openness and inclusiveness need to go both ways.

5) Be authentic.  Be human.  Sheryl Sandberg has been able to capture a following because not only is she willing to raise subjects that are uncomfortable but she’s authentic.  Her experiences, her ambition, her outlook clearly has resonated with millions of women from all ages.

Sheryl Sandberg has been a trailblazer for women in tech.  She’s bringing to center stage a topic that has been shied away from and has been hushed for too long.  As the topic continues its momentum, I’ll be leaning in with a close ear.