Lean In, written by Sheryl Sandberg in 2013, opens with the troubling observation that as early as 30 years ago, even though the number of female college graduates had reached 50%, the top echelons of government and industry continued to be filled by men. The most important decisions that impact our lives are being made without the participation of women. She sets out to answer the question, “why?”

Are Women Holding Themselves Back?

​Sandberg examines this framework of inequality, identifying what she believes are the root causes. For instance, she wonders whether our emphasis on respecting a woman whether she chooses to work outside the home or remain at home and raise children has actually resulted in a subtle discouragement to pursue leadership opportunities. Or perhaps it is women’s need to be liked that is hurting them. Sandberg relates her own experience when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, told her after six months on the job, that her drive to be liked was holding her back. He gave her sage advice which she passes on to us: if you try to please everyone you will never change anything. Women also tend to second-guess their capabilities she observes, opting out of the very assignments that will bring them recognition and career advancement.

As she tackles the intense and difficult challenges women face, Sandberg provides us with anecdotes, research studies, and compelling data, examining the lives and choices working women make. She shares her own experiences, the decisions and mistakes she made. She opens a window into her own insecurities and recounts the times when she was unsure of her capabilities.

Challenging Women to Overcome

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Sandberg challenges women to “lean in,” not to give in to the gender biases that continue to exist throughout the world. She encourages women to use the obstacles inherent in the system today as fuel for persistence, to have confidence in one’s self and not give up. Lean In is filled with practical advice on how to handle negotiations, how to build a career that meets one’s personal needs, how to set boundaries, and the steps women can take to meet their professional objectives while not abandoning self.

Sheryl Sandberg: An Accomplished Woman

Sheryl Sandberg personifies the “lean in” mantra. She has been the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook since 2008. Prior to Facebook, she worked for Google, ultimately becoming Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations. She served as Chief of Staff to Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury Secretary. Sandberg is founder of Leanin.org, a women’s empowerment organization that encapsulates the theme of her book. She is one of America’s most accomplished women, and someone who has faced many challenges in her professional and personal life, including the sudden loss of her husband.

Lean In continues many of the themes Sandberg introduced during her TED talk in 2010 and commencement address given to the graduates of Barnard in 2011. It is compelling, humorous, filled with wisdom, and easy to read. It is a stunning guidebook for personal growth and empowerment, and I very much enjoyed reading it.

I was lucky enough to attend business school with Sheryl and consider her to be a good friend and wonderful personal mentor. I would encourage all women to read Leanin as they seek inspiration for their own careers. I’m also looking forward to reading her upcoming book entitled Option B on the topic of resilience which is due out next month.