Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg

Read this book!

On rare occasion I come across a book that makes such a positive impression on me that I go actively out of my way to recommend it to family and friends.   Recent examples include the novels "The Orphan Master's Son" and "The Good Son," and one year all my kids got a copy of "The Gift of Fear" (and they still tease me about it.)   Well this year everyone's getting a copy of Ms. Sandberg's book.

Okay, so what's it about:  in most of the US, we don't think about women's rights as an unsolved problem.  (Although in states like Texas, where a woman's right to make her own unimpeded decisions about her reproductive system is constantly challenged, this is less the case.)   Ms. Sandberg's focus is women in the workplace.   She notes that even though a generation has passed since women made up 50% of college graduates each year, men are still the overwhelming majority in leadership positions.

Ms. Sandberg discusses these issues with a light but piercing tone, using her own experiences and anecdotes to motivate key points.   Her suggestions ring true to me as a (former) business executive and as a spouse and parent.

Her experiences give credibility to her voice:  she's the COO of Facebook, had been a senior executive at Google, worked in government, and is both married and a mother.

Men, don't imagine this is a book for women only; it is just as important for you.  It might make you think differently about everything from your own relationships to how you interact with others in the workforce.

I have a single critique:  Ms. Sandberg's point of view on the issues facing working mothers in particular, are based on her experiences and the experiences of her social set:  relatives and friends who are highly educated, well compensated professionals.   The Walmart employee (for example) reading her advice might wonder if it is even a little bit applicable to her situation.  Those parents are just as important a population, but perhaps they'll have to wait another generation before equal opportunity and compensation are normative concepts.   Similarly, childcare notions for someone in her position (of wealth) are not the same as they are for folks who face real day-to-day tradeoffs in order to cover the costs of pre-school for their kids.   To someone in a dual-income-but-no-wealth situation, her advice might seem a bit fanciful.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

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