Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A flawed but still thought-provoking short read that belongs on the shelf with other women's history titles.

Sandberg's message to women, especially those starting their careers, is to "lean in," meaning to put energy, time, and effort into building themselves up into powerful commodities quickly so that their careers have momentum. She posits that a job you love and do well is more likely to beckon you back during the years with young children, and she is correct on that account.

Where this book falls down is probably no fault of Sandberg's -- she's in what's been called the "1%," that is, income earners that fall within the top 1% of American salaries. Her perspective is one of great privilege, and though she acknowledges that her situation is very different to most women, her position of great wealth colors her outlook. This book is aimed squarely at well-educated women whose degrees set them up for great income potential. Women who have chosen less remunerative careers or who have to work lower-income jobs out of necessity will find little to encourage them in these pages: it's a little hard to tell someone working three jobs to make ends meet that they're not "leaning in" far enough. It could also be very guilt-inducing to a woman who is home with children because child care would cost in excess of what her salary would bring in-- yet that is the case in the United States for many highly-qualified, well-educated women who "off-ramp," as Sandberg puts it; it's not necessarily a philosophical as much as a financial choice for many families.

If one can read this book with a bit of detachment and remember that it's from the point of view of a very highly privileged woman who has indeed worked hard to achieve much of her status, she makes some good points and makes a decent argument for why women should do all they can to stay in the workforce, even if it's difficult, even if it inconveniences a partner or costs money to outsource child care. She challenges women to make this decision, if they are in a position to have it be a decision, with great care and with a global view, and that's important advice.

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