Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In Sheryl Sandberg
Published: March 11, 2013
ISBN: 0385349947
Genre: Business
Source: Kindle / January Book Club Selection
Recommended for anyone who doesn't yet know what "leaning in" is

Lean In--Sheryl Sandberg's provocative, inspiring book about women and power--grew out of an electrifying TED talk Sandberg gave in 2010, in which she expressed her concern that progress for women in achieving major leadership positions had stalled. The talk became a phenomenon and has since been viewed nearly two million times. In Lean In, she fuses humorous personal anecdotes, singular lessons on confidence and leadership, and practical advice for women based on research, data, her own experiences, and the experiences of other women of all ages. Sandberg has an uncanny gift for cutting through layers of ambiguity that surround working women, and in Lean In she grapples, piercingly, with the great questions of modern life. Her message to women is overwhelmingly positive. She is a trailblazing model for the ideas she so passionately espouses, and she's on the pulse of a topic that has never been more relevant.

My Thoughts:
This is not a book I would ever had read if it weren't for my book club.  Frankly, the topic just didn't interest me--I spent my time in the corporate world and am now quite happy doing the stay-at-home-mommy thing, but I also like to be an active part of my book club, so there you go.

I am also really struggling about what I think about this book.  On the one hand, Sandberg makes some good points and I think any woman just starting out in the workforce would benefit by reading this book.  And, it certainly is a well documented book!  About the last 35% of it is just notes and citations!

That being said, I have two major concerns about this book.  The first is that Sandberg writes from a place that few women will ever experience.  While young women can certainly aspire to to emulate her, how many will actually graduate from Harvard Business School and then reach such high levels in companies such as Google and Facebook?  And it isn't really her resume that concerns me, but the paycheck that comes with it.  Because of her professional success (at what I would consider a young age), she can afford the help she needs to balance her personal and professional lives.  It is true that she earned her paychecks and lifestyle and she should be commended for that, but her advice can be hard to swallow for a woman who does not have the financial standing that Sandberg enjoys.

My second concern is a bit more far-reaching.  I spent over a decade in the corporate world and, while the situation varies from company to company, my observation is that there are some fundamental problems there.  Yes, the gender issue is part of that, but just one part.  There are many other diversity barriers plaguing our corporate, yet Sandberg writes as if gender inequality is the only barrier.  I think that it would be very easy to read Lean In and be left with a very incomplete view of corporate America.

I waffled on how many stars to give this.  While I do have some significant issues with this book, I did appreciate many of Sandberg's points and the conversations they may breed.  I ultimately decided on 3 stars as I can't say I would recommend this book to just anyone and I do think that, at times, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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