As I bring my series on The Sandberg Saga to a close, Part 5 recaps what I believe caused the ‘Lean In’ firestorm to ignite, and it gives my reasons for why you MUST read this book.
Okay, if you don’t want to read the book, then at least watch the 2010 TEDTalk: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders. This is where Sandberg seems to have started this journey.
In my estimation, we jumped all over Sheryl Sandberg and her new book because she doesn’t fit the typical masculine definition of leadership. I believe much of the trouble was about her and not about her book. Here’s a smart and talented woman who went to the right school, met the right people, married the right guy (second time), and wrote a book to help women be successful in their careers. Do we think she has the right to give us advice? Some people do, and some people don’t. And those who didn’t agree with her advice, or simply felt she didn’t have the right to give it, they stated their case loud and clear. Just as Sandberg predicted they would.Maybe some people don’t like the messenger, but here’s why she has a message that is not to be ignored.
She presents a reality check.
This is a book that tells the truth about the challenges that real women face every day as they pursue their leadership dreams. Sure, there’s some wiggle room in statistics, and kudos to the women who made it without bumping into the glass ceiling. But the REALITY is that many women face many challenges, and it’s time to stop ignoring it. It’s time to reignite the movement of fixing the glass ceiling instead of wasting our energy by arguing whether or not it exists.
She talks to the elephants in the room.
There are lots of ‘taboo topics’ when it comes to gender diversity. It’s like gender discrimination has been added to the list of religion, politics and sex for topics not to discuss in public. But Sandberg talks about stereotype-based evaluation and cites the proof in the Heidi vs. Howard study. Sandberg calls herself a feminist and reminds us what it’s supposed to be about (pg. 158). Sandberg talks about how society is a major culprit to the dilemma and that we treat our boys and girls differently from birth. There’s a lot that we don’t, or won’t, talk about when it comes to gender discrimination. Until we stop being afraid to have a conversation, we won’t make much headway.
She’s on our side.
I for one am glad that someone rich and famous is talking about gender discrimination in the workplace. Lots of people have been beating the same drum but with fewer supporters and significantly fewer Facebook Likes. She has credibility. She has experience. She has resources. We need someone with that much clout in our corner. And we need someone who is willing to face the heat and stay in the game.
She gives us permission.
Seek forgiveness, not permission is a man’s mantra. Sure, there are women out there who wouldn’t agree, and I wish I were more like you. But I’m not. Sandberg gives us permission to sit at the table and not relinquish our power by sitting on the sidelines. Sandberg gives us permission to seek out a mentor instead of waiting for the HR department to assign us one. Sandberg gives us permission to have a non-linear career that includes both work and family. Sandberg gives us permission to dream big and go for it. Now that we have permission, let’s do it.
So… bottom line, there’s no mistaking Sandberg’s real message. Clear as day on page 10 she tells us: Be ambitious in any pursuit. That puts the responsibility for the pursuit of success and happiness squarely where it belongs; on our own shoulders. Whatever we choose to do, whatever path we decide to take, whatever dreams we dare to dream, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.
In the meantime, hang out in the Lean In community for a while and see if it’s for you. And if we happen to cross paths, be sure to say hello.