Book Review: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg

This book was fabulous, and I highly recommend it. I will reread this every year as motivation. Sandburg discusses the modern day challenges facing women in the workplace and encourages women to lean in to their goals and careers. It is interesting and well written, and I never wanted to put the book down.

I went in to my professional life thinking my gender would not affect me, but the reality is that it hold me back because of how I act as a woman. Every story in this book related directly to my life, and it surprised and horrified me a bit. I read this right as I was due to renew my contract at work, and had I not read this book I would have just signed as is. Instead, I negotiated and advocated for myself. When it was difficult, I had a greater sense of self and more confidence as a direct result of reading this book. Highly recommend it! Quotes of interest are below.

“When more people get in the race, more records will be broken.”

“We [women] hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives – the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, agressive, more powerful than men.”

“We believe in choices. But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.” Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and first woman president of an Ivy League University, on feminism.

“Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself – traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.”

“Framing the issue as ‘work-life balance’ — as if the two were diametrically opposed — practically ensures work will lose out. Who would ever choose work over life?”

“She [Dr. Peggy McIntosh from Wellesley Centers for Women] explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are — imposters with limited skills or abilities.”

“Women also differ when it comes to explaining failure. When a man fails, he points to factors like ‘didn’t study enough’ or ‘not interested in the subject matter.’ When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.”

“Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

“Bill like a boy…men considered any time they spent thinking about an issue – even time in the shower – as billable hours.”

“In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.”

“Being liked is also a key factor in both professional and personal success…we need to believe in her ability to do the job and get along with everyone while doing it. That’s why, instinctively, many of us feel pressure to mute our accomplishments.”

“An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements…Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.'”

“A senior man and junior man at a bar is seen as mentoring. A senior man and junior woman at a bar can also be mentoring…but it looks like dating.”

“Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”

“Often without realizing it, the woman stops reaching for new opportunities. If any are presented to her, she is likely to decline or offer the kind of hesitant ‘yes’ that gets the project assigned to someone else. The problem is that even if she were to get pregnant immediately, she still has nine months before she has to care for an actual child. And since women usually start this mental preparation well before trying to conceive, several years often pass between the thought and conception, let alone birth…By the time a baby arrives, the woman is likely to be in a drastically different place in her career than she would have been had she not leaned back…When she returns to the workplace after her child is born, she is likely to feel less fulfilled…”

“Done is better than perfect.”

“Long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask – even if it seems like a long shot.”

“Every job will demand some sacrifice. The key is to avoid unnecessary sacrifice.”

“Gender should neither magnify nor excuse rude and dismissive treatment. We should expect professional behavior, and even kindness, from everyone.”


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