Lean In

Title: Lean In
Writers : Sheryl Sandberg
Published: 2013
Genre: Non Fiction
My Rating: 4 on 5

Around a year back, everybody I know had read this book and was talking about it. It was as if the world was taken up by a storm and everywhere I see, I was seeing references to this book. I read the blurb of this book and I was intrigued. As a working woman (and a working mother), I wanted to know what advice Sheryl Sandberg had to give me and so I bought the book.

Sandberg starts off with the facts that we already know. Women are underpaid, the man-woman ratio in the corporate industry is pathetic and working women play a tug of war between home and work. It was somewhat consoling to know that the COO of Facebook faces the same kind of issues that an average woman faces. What I really wanted to know is how she tackles them.

From the point of view of solving these issues, I don’t see this book being very useful. Sandberg shares her issues and insecurities and tells us how she dealt with them, but just like with most things in life, these are very subjective and may not work for everybody. I cringed when I read that a woman would make her kids sleep in school-wear to save 15 mins in the morning. Does it work? May be. Would I do it? No way. Also, having a spouse who is more flexible than you are and also affordable and reliable childcare is not available for everybody. In India, even if I am ready to spend on childcare, it is difficult to find one which is trustworthy. Mainly because there are no strict regulations for day care centers and even if they are, they aren’t really followed. These are some issues that no Sandberg can solve.

Some of the things that Sandberg mentions are eye-openers. Not speaking up in meetings, tending to stay behind shadows, not negotiating for salary hard enough and so on. She also talks about how it is acceptable to switch jobs even when you are or planning to be pregnant. She might be open minded enough to hire a pregnant woman (and Marissa Mayer for switching jobs), but not all organizations are like that. I personally know of a case where a woman’s offer letter was withdrawn when they realized she is pregnant. Of course, no organization is dumb enough to cite this as a reason, but this still happens.

Sandberg comes across as someone who thinks a woman’s life is valued as long as she is working or doing something worthwhile like charity. I take an issue with this. A woman can just be at home, cooking and cleaning and taking care of kids and still be valued, as long as that is what the woman wants to do.

While I didn’t really get all the answers I was looking for, I was glad to know women all over the world are constantly battling the same issues that I am. It gives me some solace that I am not alone. I would recommend this book to every woman, working or otherwise. You can always take away something from this book.


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