Friday, July 11, 2014

Review - Lean In by: Sheryl Sandberg

Title: Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead
Author: Sheryl Sandberg
Publisher: WH Allen
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback 
Source: Personal purchase

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they'd feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in.

The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women's favour - of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg - Facebook COO and one of Fortunemagazine's Most Powerful Women in Business - looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale. She draws on her own experiences working in some of the world's most successful businesses, as well as academic research, to find practical answers to the problems facing women in the workplace.

Learning to 'lean in' is about tackling the anxieties and preconceptions that stop women reaching the top - taking a place at the table, and making yourself a part of the debate.

My thoughts:

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most successful and effective women in the world. I've always loved people who use their positions in business and society for the good of the general population, and Sandberg is kind of one of those people. Right from the beginning of her book, she confesses that even being born in the US, having a supportive and well off family has put her ahead of the game. I quite liked the fact that she admitted right off the bat that she started life lucky.

Lean In deals with how women are disadvantageous in the work place and how they MIGHT be able to change that. Drawing from personal experience, Sandberg touches upon how women aren't taken seriously in the work place, how men can have an attitude toward them, how they can be seen useless, how they get paid less than men and how a woman has to live with the fear of leaving her job if she gets pregnant and takes a step toward starting a family. While talking about these situations, she includes data from different research, mostly conducted by people at Harvard. But in the end, her book is both an academic and a social piece of writing.

I do like some of what Sandberg is preaching in the book, like the "think globally, act locally" attitude. But most of what she says women should do (and she does speak globally most of the time) made me cringe because considering where I am and what I do, there's just NO WAY. These were also the parts where you realize just how lucky Sandberg was in her life. I'm sure there are only a handful of women who have enough resources which allow them to take big risks, and I unfortunately am not one of them. 

For example, she grew up with a nanny. She's a Harvard graduate. She's worked in good places throughout her career. While she was taking a risk with Google, which was a startup at the time, she was already safe because her husband had a good job and she didn't have to worry about ending up on the street if she failed. I'm afraid a majority of us women, especially on my side of the world, aren't in a position to take that kind of risk.

I honestly consider myself lucky to have a job and a salary in today's Turkey. My friends and I all work long hours, we work hard, we get a lot done but none of us receive a deserving salary. We know we should ask for a raise, but we also know that we won't get one, so we just keep going, thankful that at least we do have a job. While reading Lean In, there were times when I went "I'm so doing this tomorrow," but then I realized how unrealistic most of it is. For me, at least.