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Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Last week, we did an entire series centered on women and money [3]. It was inspired by one of the books generating a great deal of buzz right now, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In [3]. Lean In is meant as encouragement to women to “sit at the table” and take charge of their careers.

The book is interesting, and includes some great advice that anyone — woman or man — can use to further their careers. While the tips in the book won’t work for everyone, it is nevertheless an interesting read.

Gender Roles and Careers

Sandberg makes it a point to include the information from a number of research studies. Much of the information she presents about gender roles isn’t particularly new, even though it is interesting to read. Many of us already know that, even in two-income households, women still do more housework than men. One of the points Sandberg makes in Lean In is that, “As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home.”

Even though Sandberg has received a lot of criticism for trying to say that all women should have careers, that’s not what she says at all. She recognizes that there are women who want to live different lifestyles, and stay home [4]. But those who do want to have careers should have that option, and, in spite of progress made in the last few decades, it is still harder than it should be for women to create the careers they want (if they want them) outside of the home.

According to Sandberg, one of the biggest difficulties women face is the fact that many ambitious women have partners that are less than supportive — or even feel threatened by them. I think she has a point. I see it a lot in the very traditional community in which I live. Sometimes my husband is teased for doing laundry and for not being the primary breadwinner. (It’s also been implied that he needs to get his wife under control, but that’s a different issue.) As Sandberg points out, “if they have to worry that they will upset their husbands by succeeding, how can we hope to live in an equal world?”

It reminds me of The Stepford Wives. The main point of that book is that the men want these perfect robots because they can’t deal with their wives’ ambitions and they don’t want to actually help out around the house.

Tips for Improving Your Career

If you want to improve your career, Sandberg’s book does offer some helpful insights in how to improve. Some of my favorite career advancement quotes from the book include:

These observations don’t just apply to climbing a more traditional career ladder; they can apply to entrepreneurs as well, and it doesn’t matter what gender you claim.

Interspersed throughout Lean In are stories from Sandberg’s career, as well as thoughts on how to become more assertive in your career. While much of the career advice is aimed at women — particularly those who are unaccustomed to drawing attention to themselves — it can be benefit just about anyone.

Whether you agree with Sandberg or not, Lean In is an interesting read, and well worth the time.

Have you read Lean In? What do you think of the book? What are your thoughts about gender equality in the workplace and in the home?