In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) gave a TEDTalk on the ways that women are held back (and the way they hold themselves back) in their professional careers. This prompted viewers around the world to share their own stories of struggle and success.
Due to all the buzz this generated, Sandberg was inspired to write a book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Through research, anecdotes, and practical advice from others, she addresses everything from gender differences and equality to challenging women to ‘lean in’ to their careers and get their voices heard in the workplace. While the book has also been received with much controversy and criticism, it ultimately serves as a rallying cry for all of us, both men and women, to work together to create a more equal world. However, Sandberg’s will to lead, unwavering commitment, intelligence and dedicated work ethic are apparent through her words and present her as a realist– an honest, humorous and likable one as well.
Sandberg discusses how Facebook’s culture encourages everyone to take risks and challenges in the workplace with ownership and pride, whether it be a career move or spearheading a new project. Posters that state “Proceed and be bold” and “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” reinforce this notion. Her thoughts clearly prove that women need to step up and end the self-fulfilling belief that women “can’t” do certain things– a “can’t” attitude ensures that it will never be done. She highlights how women often lean back in order to be liked; they phrase assertions like questions and politely raise their hands while men grab the floor. In reality, men and women have all the potential and open-mindedness in the world to lean in to their careers and change the course of their futures. Her points illustrate that our abilities to break past social barriers and so-called “societal guidelines” are in our hands, and we can either be empowered to change them or continue to lean back and watch others take control.
Sandberg states, “I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential. I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto. And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto.”
Sandberg’s passion for this movement has launched a non-profit, LeanIn.org, to establish grounds for men and women to join this campaign and to also act upon her message through Lean In Circles. Lean In Circles are open forums of eight to 12 peers who meet monthly to explore professional topics and personal experiences and are designed to give everyone extra support to lean in. LeanIn.org provides specific guidelines on how to run these meetings with online videos and tutorials on topics for discussion. These circles act as power groups that address how both men and women can successfully contribute to empowerment in their careers through discussion.
This goes beyond just being a book that gives statistics and advice about a simple subject matter. This is a social movement daring women to take charge of their careers, embrace their inner ambitions (professional and personal) and approach everything full force. It’s about time that we say “yes” to working together and lean in to all of our ambitions.