By: Tammy Tseng
Sheryl Sandberg is most widely known for her role as Facebook’s highly successful Chief Operation Officer, but within the past month, she’s been generating buzz for another reason: her new book, Lean In, addresses gender inequality in leadership positions and how both men and women can take steps in the home and the workplace towards equality. In Lean In, Sandberg notes that although more women than men are now graduating from college, women hold only 14% of the top corporate positions in America. She also discusses the causes of this disparity, examines the stereotypes and challenges women often face in the workplace. She gives advice on how women can best be empowered to reach their full potential.
Sandberg’s most controversial point is that women sometimes are the greatest barrier to themselves when they look to advance in the workplace. Often, women are less likely to take initiative and seek out career-advancing opportunities, and part of this is because society inherently discourages women from taking positions of power while rewarding men who do so. Sandberg notes that these stereotypical gender roles are established early in life. Whereas outspoken little girls are reprimanded for being “bossy”, little boys are never called “bossy” because they’re expected to be assertive and lead. In the workplace, this can translate to female reluctance to aim for executive positions due to fear of being disliked by colleagues or employees, or to pursue positions that may fall out of their comfort zone. Sandberg also points out that when balancing a career and a family, women are stuck in a quandary; working moms face criticism for not devoting enough time to their children, while stay-at-home moms face reproach for giving up their aspirations. Lean In contains a few lessons for the men too: just as women should strive to gain footing for an equal workplace, Sandberg believes that men should be supporting their partners by taking equal share in household and domestic duties. She also discusses how men can benefit from helping women in the workplace and how true gender equality can only be achieved when women are making just as many executive decisions as men are.
Sandberg’s book expands upon many of the themes she discussed in her groundbreaking TED Talk (hosted by the nonprofit organization TED, TED Talks are presentations about any interesting idea worth spreading), “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”, two years ago. Her writing is genuine and powerful and Lean In inspires careful thought about the way gender roles still play out in modern-day society. Her message can be applied in careers, in schools, and in homes and will hopefully blaze a trail and inspire more women to pursue their ambitions. Join the Lean In community at www.leanin.org or www.facebook.com/leanin.