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What’s Good About Leaning In

by Beth on September 23rd, 2013

I have to admit that, despite my passion for the issue of women’s careers, I didn’t rush to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In when it was first published. I was troubled that she seemed to imply that it was women’s fault that there aren’t more of us leading companies. As I often mention, I believe the problem is that women aren’t interested in working for companies that don’t give them the flexibility they need to live full, happy lives. Until the workplace changes women will continue to choose not to lean in.

That said, I did finally get around to reading Lean In and I think it is a very good book. Sheryl presents much of the psychological research demonstrating the more subtle obstacles that keep women from advancing to the top. Societal norms discourage girls from taking risks, advocating for themselves, or acknowledging their accomplishments. Society also expects women to be nurturers, caring for their children and showing concern for others at work rather than looking out for their own best interest. All of these put women at a disadvantage in the workplace. Yet when women try to go against these norms in order to succeed, they are disliked because they don’t fit the female stereotype. So in a way we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

I told my husband that I think it is as important for male leaders to read Lean In as it is for women. The only way these subtle barriers will be overcome is if everyone in the workplace is aware of them so that they can work to counteract them.

We do need more women at the top to bring about the kind of changes necessary for a majority of women to want to lean in to work. Hopefully, Sheryl’s book will help to increase the percentage of women leading organizations so that we will all benefit from the change they will create.

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