I’ve been sitting on this review on Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by SherylSandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook.
I found myself in conflict with her message vs reality. I fully agreed that we, women, needed to make a conscious effort to be heard, lead and mentor. Her message was spot-on and encouraging. My concern though was with putting to practice Lean In in reality.
I’m a young highly ambitious women and ever since I started my career journey I’ve gone from a starry-eyed-goals-slayer to ‘is this really worth it’. Lean In, and many books, like it fail to cover the brutal struggle that comes with leaning in.
Unfortunately what I’ve witnessed as a young ambitious career women is that for women to actually really lean in – they must prepare for war. They must prepare to be pulled down by those older than them, fellow females and threatened males.
I’ve witnessed women who ‘lean in’ in the work place needing to be tough against all these elements before they can even get to the matter at hand – the job.
What Sandberg doesn’t address is how malicious the world is to women. It’s much deeper than just a parking bay that caters for pregnant women or decent toilets for us.
The world doesn’t like women. The amount of violence that we experience is proof of this. An ambitious women comes as that much more of a threat.
To Lean In, women need more than just to speak up at meetings; they need thick skins for what happens after they’ve spoken up.
I’m reminded of a call I received from a good friend of mine a while back. She was in tears, could hardly string two sentences together. She had been over-looked for a promotion simply because her manager (women) didn’t like her – and she made sure this was known by all in the workplace. Same friend subsequently was blessed to get a job offer somewhere else.
This unfortunately is the norm: for women to really prosper – they have to walk out and walk up.
Many workplaces suddenly get toxic as soon as a woman challenges the status quo. The moment you state your case, make the demands and show your capabilities – daggers are drawn.
Books like this one are an absolute must-read and re-read. They are needed to encourage us to value our skill-sets and experience. They are needed to move us into doing what we’ve never done to get to places we want to be. They challenge us to put currency to what we bring-in to the work force.
What’s missing though is the brutal truth: It can be a painful journey.