Over the last few months I have been slowly but surely reading the book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
The book is all about the reality women face in the workplace – not only the challenges handed to us by society, but the things we are doing to ourselves to make our own lives harder. This includes not sitting at the table, undercutting our own self confidence, and placing unfair expectations on ourselves in the workplace and at home.
While trying not be too cheesy, this book has changed the way I think about my career. It is part of what gave me the courage to leave a company where I had been for almost 5 years to take on an exciting (but completely new) opportunity. The night before accepting the job, I re-read the chapter about how your career is less like a ladder and more like a jungle gym. It has also made me feel more confident through that transition – or at least given me the ok to fake my way through.
I highly recommend this book to all women – particularly women who place a high value on their professional lives – but really and truly to all women. I also recommend it to men who love and support women, or are raising young women of their own. I have so far purchased six copies for friends as gifts. It is an honest conversation about both sides of the coin – what you are up against, and what you can do to steer your own destiny.
If you want the Cliff notes version, you can watch Sheryl’s 15 minute TED talk that she delivered before she wrote Lean In. Personally, I prefer this speech she gave to the Barnard graduating class of 2011. I got a little misty the first time I read the conclusion (which she includes in the book):
You are the promise for a more equal world. So my hope for everyone here is that after you walk across this stage, after you get your diploma, after you go out tonight and celebrate hard – you then will lean way into your career. You will find something you love doing, and you will do it with gusto. Find the right career for you, and go all the way to the top.
As you walk off this stage today, you start your adult life. Start out by aiming high. Try, and try hard. Like everyone here, I have great hopes for the members of this graduating class.
I hope you find true meaning, contentment and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you—yes, you— have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world, because the world needs you to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.
So please ask yourself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” And then go do it.
Below are a few of my other favorite quotes from Lean In: