I was actually told by someone (a very smart and extremely capable women) before I wrote this to be careful because people don't like feminists and my post may put me at a disadvantage professionally. But I really feel better about my future and my dreams after reading this book. I hope to encourage others to read it too. (And I wholly respect their opinions after reading it as well.)
For those not familiar with Lean In...
Lean In is a memoir/self-help book written by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. In it she explains with anecdotes from her own life and in depth research from sociologists and psychologists on how advances in womens' equality has stalled in recent years. The stereotypical stigma behind women in the workplace and men at home has stuck with our culture. Sandberg addresses workplace behavior, balancing having children with work, opting in for a promotion, and generally standing up for yourself as a women.
One point I found interesting was that women consistently underestimate themselves more than men. Sandberg points to a study that explains that women attribute their successes to "work[ing] really hard," "gett[ing] lucky," or "[receiving] help from others." While men attribute their successes to their own "innate qualities and skills." She actually comes out with evidence to support that women have actually been guilty of stalling their equality in the workplace themselves.
The Push Back
Now I do understand everyone's arguments (I've even had to defend the book to my own father).
- Yes, she has the resources to take risks and advance herself in the work place. Many women don't have an ivy league education to make the right connections and have a diploma worthy of a high brow job. Many also don't have the money to pay for extra help at home or take time off to find their perfect job.
BUT there are different ways to "lean in," building the right connections and figuring out exactly what you want to do. My question is - If someone with the resources and support to "lean in" doesn't start the conversation, how will the women with less resources and support think that they could do it as well? It has to start somewhere.
- Many also have said that she is not fixing the innate problems facing women in the workplace itself. Instead she is putting the responsibility solely on women and that is unfair.
I agree that workplace regulations are not equal for men and women at all companies (ie. pregnancy leave, flexible work hours). I think Sandberg is encouraging women to change the problems in the work place. And where better to start than with yourself? If women don't address the problems facing them in the workplace who will? Like Sandberg states at the beginning of the book, it had never occurred to her to ask for preferred parking for pregnant mothers at Google. But when she did ask for it the problem was immediately solved. I do realize not everyone is fortunate enough to work at Google but the point is she saw a problem and had the courage to address and correct it.
(An Example of the controversy surrounding the book from ABC News, March 11, 2013)
What really hit me...
With all that in mind - I just wanted to share this anecdote from the book because (in my opinion) it's her biggest point that struck a cord with me:
"[Dr. Peggy McIntosh] explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can't seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are--impostors with limited skills and abilities."
"Everytime I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn't embarrass - or even excelled - I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up."
Until I read this I assumed I was the only one with this fear. Any girl I went to school with was remarkably smart and talented, but I'm starting to realize some of them must have had self doubt as well. Matter of fact, this feeling of self doubt is so common it has a name - the Impostor syndrome.
I realized I suffered from this horribly in college. It is only now that I have moved to a new city, surrounded myself with mentors and completely supportive friends that I have learned to take the plunge. I've slowly began to realize I am a very smart women, capable of doing anything I want. This is especially important to me because I work in an industry where men dominate, and if a women is around their role is administrative more than anything.
What I really want to know after writing this is --
Do you agree with what Sandberg is trying to say? And if so, how many of us are really holding ourselves back? Do we even know we're doing it? And if we truly weren't afraid of anything - what would we go out and do?
P.S. I'm holding a "Lean In" discussion dinner via +Grubwithus in NYC. I invite anyone to please sign up I would love to have you! Sign up here
And of course, any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com