I came across this book when I was on maternity leave with my first child, wondering if the workplace would still need me when I get back or if it was worth it to leave my bundle of joy for the hustle of work. It’s been 4 years since then and I am still growing strong in the workplace which may not have happened if I hadn’t read this book. It is for women who want to make impact and men who want to support that vision – Tosan A.
LEAN IN/SHERYL SANDBERG & NELL SCOVELL/ ALFRED A. KNOPF PUBLISHER/ 2013/ 228 PAGES
The book is about feminism, women empowerment and leading in the work place. The author Sheryl Sandberg, through her experiences in the work place expresses the problems women face in the workplace which she noted could either be self-inflicted or as a result of societal actions or inaction of discouraging women in the workplace.
She explained the subtle and sometimes aggressive ways the society works against the advancement of women in the workplace; subtle like some of the characteristics exhibited by successful men which when replicated in women are usually perceived as wrong or inappropriate or the internal inhibitions that make women to think of careers to a certain limit to make room for marriage and family. Most women that start out in the workplace i.e at the entry levels don’t even aim past the mid management levels and probably don’t get there because of all the many other considerations their male counterparts do not usually worry about.
Women have to get comfortable with the idea of being powerful, being ambitious, and confident about being criticized for being too bossy or too ambitious
Something else that stood out for the book, the fact that she tried to back most of her personal findings with facts and statistics so that they are not just tossed away as just musings but give credibility to the whole fight for pushing forward women in the workplace to sit at board rooms. With more ladies at the helm or in top positions, more will see it more achievable and strive even harder to attain such.
Women are also more reluctant to apply for promotions even when deserved, often believing that good job performance will naturally led to rewards. Carol Frohlinger and Deborah Kolb, founders of Negotiating Women, Inc., described this as the ‘Tiara Syndrome’. Where women ‘expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head.
Hard work and result should be recognized by others, but when they aren’t, advocating for oneself becomes necessary.
She also urged men to offer to mentor and sponsor women in the workplace, supporting them to reach heights they normally would not achieve alone.
Of all the wonderful lessons and personal experiences shared in the book, the one that stood out for me is chapter titled ‘Don’t leave before you leave’ (expect a special post on this) because it focuses on how women hold themselves back from growth among other things. Our feminist nature makes us want to take care of everyone else considering ourselves last. This most times hinder us from giving our best to our jobs starting a vicious circle of settling for less and never achieving leadership roles anyway. We plan too much for other areas of our lives that may or may not turn out like we planned.
We easily forget that marriage is a partnership and go the traditional route of handling all emotional matters making our spouses unhelpful and increasing the burden of managing both the home and the workplace. At some point recognizing that both parties are partners in a marriage prevents the other part from seeing the help provided as a favor.
Tosan’s take: I am a woman in the workplace so this book is particularly helpful to me and even though it will make a good discussion for critics, I believe it addresses salient matters at its crux which will help me not to sabotage my own growth in the workplace. For women who are full time moms, the author still respects your contribution to the development of the future generation and doesn’t make light your ‘work’. For the dads who want to support their wives in the workplace, brace up for societal interjections because we are still not there yet – we will be there when we can have stay home dads and not cringe! And it is NOT an African thing.