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

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Overview

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women?s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women?s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to ...

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Overview

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. 

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

Sheryl Sandberg's Letter to Graduates

Congratulations, graduates, on this exciting occasion!

I join so many others in celebrating and applauding the hard work and perseverance that earned you your degree. And since no one accomplishes anything all alone, we also congratulate the people who nurtured you along the way—family, friends, and faculty. They share in the pride and joy of your achievements.

If your graduating class is anything like mine, some of your classmates have already pinpointed a path to the future, while others may not even know where to begin. Still, no matter what route you choose personally, I am writing to appeal to you to take on a critically important cause that will improve the lives of all: building a more equal world.

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world. The laws of economics and studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve. And studies of home life tell us that families where housework and childcare are shared evenly have happier parents and better outcomes for their children.

Over the past four years, you probably haven't given much thought to gender inequality. When I graduated from college in 1991—and yes, I realize this was the year that most of you were born—I never thought about it either. My classmates and I believed that the feminists of the 1960s and 1970s had done the hard work of achieving equal opportunity for women. Now all we had to do was seize those opportunities.

But more than 20 years later, we are nowhere near equality for women. In the November 2012 election, women won more congressional seats than ever before, bringing them up to a (non-whopping) 18 percent. A mere 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women and the percentage of women in executive roles in corporate America has barely budged over the past decade. The gap is even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs and 5 percent of congressional seats. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect us all, women's voices are not heard equally.

The gender biases in our society have already started to affect the way you view yourselves. Millennial women are less likely than their male peers to characterize themselves as "self-confident" and "leaders." This may be one of the reasons that at the top fifty colleges, despite women comprising more than half of the student population, less than a third of student government presidents are women.

These lowered expectations extend into the workplace. For example, female college students have lower pay expectations than their male peers. Just a few years out of college, more men than women aspire to reach managerial levels. And even before women enter the workforce, they are often worrying about balancing future careers and families.

This generation can make the difference. It won't be easy. It begins by admitting that we have a problem and committing to solve it.

Women need to believe in themselves, raise their hands, sit at the table, take risks, and support each other. They need to overcome their fears. Men need to support women, too, encouraging female peers in the workplace and doing their share in their homes. If women lean in to their careers and men lean in to treating women as true equals, together, you can end these biases and break down both the external and internal barriers that hold women back.

Let's keep talking about these issues. Let's start encouraging women to lead in whatever field they choose. And let's all—men and women--support women as they do it. You can turn the promise of equality into true equality.

You are the hope for a brighter future.

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  • What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid? - Lean In
    What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid? - Lean In  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The beaming face on the cover isn't an actress or model; it belongs to Sheryl Sandberg, the author of this book and, by the valuations of Fortune, one of the ten most powerful women in business. Facebook's Chief Operating Officer has been a key driver in the billion-user social network not just popular, but also profitable. Her Lean In isn't, however, a company history; it is an inspiring tutorial on how women can lead, even if that means learn to juggle the responsibilities of work and a family. (Sandberg is married and has two children.) To offer aspirants encouragement and advice, she draws on own experiences and those of other working women. Bound to receive prominent reviews.

The New York Times Book Review - Anne-Marie Slaughter
No one who reads this book will ever doubt that Sandberg herself has the will to lead, not to mention the requisite commitment, intelligence and ferocious work ethic…Sandberg is not just tough, however. She also comes across as compassionate, funny, honest and likable…Sandberg's advice to young women to be more ambitious, which can sound like a finger-wagging admonishment when taken out of context, is framed here in more encouraging terms—"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"—addressing the self-doubt that still holds many women back. Most important, Sandberg is willing to draw the curtain aside on her own insecurities.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
…Stand up. Step forward. Speak out. Be smart and strong, and don't torpedo your own efforts in the workplace. That's the assertiveness for which Lean In is a landmark manifesto. Writing this book was gutsy…Lean In will be an influential book. It will open the eyes of women who grew up thinking that feminism was ancient history, who recoil at the word but walk heedlessly through the doors it opened. And it will encourage those women to persevere in their professional lives…
Publishers Weekly
Facebook COO Sandberg examines the dearth of women in major leadership positions, and what women can do to solve the problem, in this provocative tome. While acknowledging that women have made great strides in the business world, she posits that they still have a long way to go and lays out a plan for women to get there. “I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential,” she explains. The author’s counsel—gleaned from her own experiences—includes suggestions for increasing self-confidence, particularly in the business world; understanding the role of mentors and how to identify them; building emotional relationships at work; not focusing on being liked; juggling marriage and children with a demanding job; and the importance of taking risks. “Hard work and results should be recognized by others, but when they aren’t, advocating for oneself becomes necessary,” Sandberg opines. A new generation of women will learn from Sandberg’s experiences, and those of her own generation will be inspired by this thoughtful and practical book. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Lean In (#1 National Bestseller)
 
“Honest and brave . . . The new manifesto for women in the workplace.”
            —Oprah Winfrey
 
 “Lean In is an inauguration more than a last word, and an occasion for celebration . . . Many, many women, young and old, elite and otherwise, will find it prescriptive, refreshing, and perhaps even revolutionary.”
             —Anna Holmes, The New Yorker
 
“A landmark manifesto . . . Fifty years after The Feminine Mystique . . . Sandberg addresses 21st-century issues that never entered Betty Friedan’s wildest dreams . . . Lean In will be an influential book. It will open the eyes of women who grew up thinking that feminism was ancient history, who recoil at the word but walk heedlessly through the doors it opened. And it will encourage those women to persevere in their professional lives.”
            —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
 “Lean In poses a set of ambitious challenges to women: to create the lives we want, to be leaders in our work, to be partners in our homes, and to be champions of other women. Sheryl provides pragmatic advice on how women in the twenty-first century can meet these challenges. I hope women—and men—of my generation will read this book to help us build the lives we want to lead and the world we want to live in.” 
           —Chelsea Clinton
 
“I approached it wearing two hats—one as CEO [and] the other as the parent of a nine-year-old daughter. In both capacities, I feel that Lean In is a must read.”
            —Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, in Fortune
 
“Inspirational . . . Sandberg offers concrete suggestions on how to make our work and home life more satisfying and successful.”
            —Kare Anderson, Forbes
 
“What Sandberg offers is a view that shows 20-somethings that choices and tradeoffs surely exist, but that the ‘old normal’ of blunting ambition so that you can fit in one category or another does not have to be the way it is. And that each of us has a say in what comes next. And that includes men.”
            —Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, The Atlantic
 
“Sheryl Sandberg has done a tremendous service with this work. It offers a vital and sharp message, for women and men. We need great leaders in key seats spread throughout all sectors of society, and we simply cannot afford to lose 50 percent of the smartest, most capable people from competing for those seats. Provocative, practical, and inspired!” 
           —Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
 
“Sandberg recounts her own experiences and dilemmas with great honesty, making it easy for women across cultures and geographies to identify with her. She spells out much that is well known about the problems working women face, but rarely articulated . . . In every word she writes, Sandberg’s authenticity shines through.”
            —Shweta Punj, Business Today

“Lively, entertaining, urgent, and yes, even courageous . . . Lean In is both a radical read and incredibly accessible . . . While it’s obvious that women have much to gain from reading Sandberg’s book, so do men—perhaps even more so . . . Lean In is the beginning of an important and long-overdue conversation in the United States—but it will only be a national conversation, and one that endures, if men do their part and lean in, too.”
            —Michael Cohen, The Guardian
 
 “Grade: A . . . a rallying cry to working women . . . Lean In is the most cogent piece of writing I’ve encountered that speaks to the internal and institutional forces that can trip up an ambitious woman, whether she has a baby on board or not . . . The wisdom she shares here is a gift that all women (and all partners who support them, in the workplace or at home) should give themselves.”
            —Meeta Agrawal, Entertainment Weekly
 
 “If you loved Sheryl Sandberg’s incredible TEDTalk on why we have too few women leaders, or simply believe as I do that we need equality in the boardroom, then this book is for you. As Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has firsthand experience of why having more women in leadership roles is good for business as well as society. Lean In is essential reading for anyone interested in righting the injustice of this inequality.” 
           —Sir Richard Branson, chairman, the Virgin Group
 
“Sandberg’s message matters deeply: it has a shot at bringing about a cultural change that would improve the lives of all women.”
           —Judith Warner, TIME
 
“A muscular manifesto on the gender inequities of the professional world . . . Sandberg is making a disruptive, crucial observation that puts her very much in line with Friedan: All is not just in the gendered world, and we should be talking urgently about how to make it better.”
           —Rebecca Traister, Los Angeles Times
 
“No one who reads this book will ever doubt that Sandberg herself has the will to lead, not to mention the requisite commitment, intelligence, and ferocious work ethic . . . Sandberg is not just tough, however. She also comes across as compassionate, funny, honest, and likable . . . Most important, she is willing to draw the curtain aside on her own insecurities . . . Lean In is full of gems, slogans that ambitious women would do well to pin up on their wall . . . I nodded in recognition at so much of what Sandberg recounts, page after page.” 
           —Anne-Marie Slaughter, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
 
“Pivotal . . . It’s probably not an overstatement to say Sandberg is embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971. The thing is, she’s in a pretty good position to pull it off.”
            —Belinda Luscombe, TIME
 
“Important . . . This is a great moment for all of us—women and men—to acknowledge that the current male-dominated model of success isn’t working for women, and it’s not working for men, either . . . The world needs women to redefine success beyond money and power. We need a third metric, based on our well-being, our health, our ability to unplug and recharge and renew ourselves, and to find joy in both our job and the rest of our life.”
            —Arianna Huffington, Forbes
 
“I’ll bet most [women] will be thrilled by Lean In. I suspect at least a few men will read this book and think, Oh no, they’re starting to catch on.
            —Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair
 
“A lucidly written, well-argued, and unabashedly feminist take on women and work, replete with examples from the author’s life.”
            —Julia Klein, USA Today
 
 “Having read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I can testify that it addresses internalized oppression, opposes the external barriers that create it, and urges women to support each other to fight both. It argues not only for women’s equality in the workplace, but men’s equality in home-care and child-rearing. Even its critics are making a deep if inadvertent point: Only in women is success viewed as a barrier to giving advice.” 
           —Gloria Steinem
 
Lean In has plenty for feminists and all women to applaud—and learn from . . . I’m glad Sandberg is speaking out. I’m glad she’s using her platform to help give women the tools to succeed, and to encourage all of us to go out and get what we want. The real strength of Lean In is in its Rosie the Riveter 2.0 message: ‘You can do it! Here’s how.’ . . . A crucial call to action.”
            —Jill Filipovic, The Guardian
 
“A call to live fearlessly . . . Lean In is a memoir, a self-help book, a career management guide, and a feminist manifesto . . . Let’s hope this is a book that is read as much as talked about.”
            —Marion Winik, Newsday
 
“Equality is a project everybody must work on together. For too long, achieving equality has been seen as women’s burden . . . By knowing this story, men will become more sophisticated thinkers and actors when it comes to gender . . . Lean In contains a whole lot for men to think seriously about . . . Men just need to read it.”
            —Patrick Thibodeau, CIO Magazine
 
 “Unapologetic . . . Sandberg is using her power and influence to try and improve the world . . . Sandberg’s most powerful rhetorical device in the book is a saturation of stats that are sometimes shocking and sometimes reverberating—but always the kind that make you reevaluate what’s going on around us.”
            —Nicholas Carlson, Business Insider
 
“Sandberg’s voice is modest, humorous, warm, and enthusiastic . . . You don’t have to be climbing the corporate ladder—or, as Sandberg would call it, the jungle gym—to find her message useful. Don’t marry a man who isn’t egalitarian? Good plan! Be more confident? Excellent advice . . . I’m buying a copy of Lean In for my daughter and one for my stepdaughter, too.”
            —Katha Pollitt, The Nation
 
“Nuanced, persuasive, and brave . . . All of us—women and men alike—who care about creating a more equitable America ought to take her message to heart.”
            —Jane Eisner, The Forward
 
“After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk . . . I believe we—together—need to drive a fundamental culture change and it is up to us as leaders to make this change happen. What we have been doing hasn’t worked, and it is time to adjust . . . We have an opportunity to make a tremendous difference, and in so doing benefit our people, out culture, our company, and, just maybe, the world.”
            —John Chambers, CEO, Cisco
 
“Tremendously relevant . . . necessary . . . Lean In is more about being bold than it is about being female . . . Sandberg can reach beyond boundaries of age, success level, and gender to include all of those who have the privilege of playing on the jungle gym of corporations, academia, and government.”
            —Sharon Poczter, Forbes      
 
“A rallying cry for both genders to continue the hard work of previous generations toward a more equitable division of voice, power, and leadership . . . Told with candor and filled with a mix of anecdote and annotated fact, Lean In inspires women to find their passion, pursue it with gusto, and ‘lean in’ to leadership roles in the workplace and the world.”
            —Linda Stankard, BookPage
 
“I plan to buy Lean In for our three grown daughters and daughter-in-law . . . In our family, and in families across the country, may the conversations begin.”
            —Connie Schultz, Washington Post
 
“I’m guessing that the average boardroom doesn’t have much better gender equality than a team of cave hunters attacking a woolly mammoth 30,000 years ago. So what gives? A provocative answer comes from Sheryl Sandberg, who has written a smart book that attributes the gender gap, in part, to chauvinism and corporate obstacles—but also, in part, to women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities . . . there is something real and important in what she says.”
           —Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
 
 “Giving women the tools and skills they need to take themselves and society—worldwide—to the next level.”
           —Leslie L. Kossoff, Technorati.com
 
“Compelling . . . Sandberg writes with sophistication and thoughtful reflection . . . a book that has a powerful message but that is also full of personal vulnerability and first-hand anecdotes, packed with statistics and footnoted studies that back her points.”
            —Susan Adams, Forbes
 
“Her ideas are reasonable, thoughtful—and necessary.”
           —Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast
 
“When was the last time anybody talked this much about a women’s place in the world, period? Sandberg’s Lean In is opening up the dialogue—and, in true Silicon Valley fashion, she’s made it scalable . . . It’s put words to what we’d long felt but couldn’t quite articulate; the insecurities, the self-doubt, the fear that causes us to keep our hands down. Because, whether we’d recognized it or not, each of us . . . had been grappling with precisely what Sandberg aims to conquer . . . She’s also managed to bridge a gap that has mystified many an activist before her: reaching women who both self-identify as feminists, and those who don’t.”
           —Jessica Bennett, NYMag.com
 
“This is a book every young woman needs . . . I see her as an inspiration.”
           —Colleen Leahey, Fortune
 
“A lucidly written, well-argued and unabashedly feminist take on women and work, replete with examples from the author’s life. It draws on the ideas of no less an icon than Gloria Steinem, a Sandberg friend, and on recent research highlighting the double binds women face as they negotiate the corridors of power.”
           —Julia M. Klein, USA Today
 
“To get a sense of how I reacted to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, look no further than the stars and exclamation points that fill the margins of my review copy . . . Among its merits is the way Sandberg doesn’t shy away from describing her own struggles to take risks at work, to ask for what she wants, to negotiate, to find an equal partner.”
           —Alexandra Chang, Wired
 
“Sheryl provides practical suggestions for managing and overcoming the challenges that arise on the ‘jungle gym’ of career advancement. I nodded my head in agreement and laughed out loud as I read these pages. Lean In is a superb, witty, candid, and meaningful read for women (and men) of all generations.” 
            —Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state
 
“To tackle society’s most pressing problems we need to unleash the leadership of both women and men. Lean In shows us the path and is an absolutely invaluable resource for the next generation of leaders and those who support them.”
            —Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO, Teach for America
 
“For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. She has a remarkable intelligence that can cut through complex processes and find solutions to the hardest problems. Lean In combines Sheryl’s ability to synthesize information with her understanding of how to get the best out of people. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers—especially men—to become better and more effective leaders.”
            —Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Facebook
 
“Sheryl is a unique business leader because of her versatility and breadth. She has the two traits that are common in every successful leader I have known: curiosity and determination. Sheryl brings all of her insight to Lean In, an important new book that companies can use to get the most out of their talent. With her ideas and actions, Sheryl will help to define leadership in the years to come.”
            —Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric
 
“The key to opening some of life’s most difficult doors is already in our hands. Sheryl’s book reminds us that we can reach within ourselves to achieve greatness.” 
            —Alicia Keys

Kirkus Reviews
Facebook COO Sandberg (ranked fifth in Forbes' 2011 list of the most powerful women in the world) reveals how gender discrimination still operates against her and other less-fortunate women. When she learned about the list, she reports, "I felt embarrassed and exposed." Even in her position, she still felt the pressure of social conditioning, the expectation that women should subordinate themselves to men. Taking examples from her own experience, Sandberg shows how expected gender roles work against women seeking top jobs, even though they now earn "63 percent of the master's degrees in the United States." Not only are women forced to juxtapose family and job responsibilities, but they face more subtle pressures. From early childhood, females are discouraged from being assertive. "Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct," writes the author. While it is assumed that men who are committed to their families can have successful careers, for women, the choices are more difficult due to the fact that they will usually be the primary caregivers. The failure of social provisions--extended family leave, flexible working hours, etc., which are the norm in many European countries--make life especially difficult for middle-income families (and single parents) due to the high cost of good child care. Women internalize this, frequently making career decisions to accommodate their expectation of the demands that will be imposed by having a family in the future. In Sandberg's case, this involved rejecting a desirable international fellowship. She argues the need for a redefinition of gender roles so that men expect to share primary responsibility for child care, parents receive social support to accommodate work and family responsibilities, and stereotyping of male and female behavior is recognized as pernicious. A compelling case for reforms that support family values in the continuing "march toward true equality."
Library Journal
Sandberg's (COO, Facebook.com) experience as a woman in the workforce began with her time as an early employee at Google before she held the position of chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department. In light of her enormous successes, Sandberg's awareness of how few women hold positions of power in today's companies has increased her determination to help women advance. This book offers her take on ways for women to improve their situation, such as being more self-confident, acquiring a mentor, remaining engaged, getting more help at home, etc. These are not new ideas. What makes them noteworthy is who is doing the talking. The book is conversational in tone but also well researched, enhancing the facts with stories from the trenches. VERDICT A lively book on a topic relevant to all working women as well as the men they work with (and for). There will be interest because of the author's renown.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
The Barnes & Noble Review

I began reading Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead when the backlash against the book was just getting under way. Many of the columnists and bloggers who condemned the Facebook COO's manifesto on women and work clearly hadn't read it and were attacking not the message but the messenger, described snidely by Maureen Dowd as someone with a "grandiose plan to become the PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots reigniting the women's revolution." But despite what you may have heard, Lean In isn't the work of a tone- deaf elitist blaming other women for failing to achieve as much as she has; rather, it's an explicitly feminist rallying cry whose purpose is to help women make gains in the workplace.

Sandberg, who holds a B.A. and an M.B.A. from Harvard and was in on the ground floor of Google before moving to Facebook, is not blind to the reality that most women's circumstances are nowhere near as rarefied as hers. On the other hand, she refers early and often to the fact that women are generally struggling simply to make ends meet and provide for their families. Sandberg acknowledges that "parts of this book will be most relevant to women fortunate enough to have choices about how much and when and where to work."

Those very women are outpacing men in college and graduate school, but the "academic gains have not yet translated into significantly higher numbers of women in top jobs." Sandberg recognizes that women's progress is hindered by overt discrimination—unequal pay and inadequate parental leave, for starters. But the focus of her book is on the ways women hold themselves back, "by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be" — here's the conceit of the title — "leaning in." Far from denying that structural barriers exist, as some have claimed, she makes clear that she has "written this book to encourage women to...forge a path through the obstacles."

To that end, Lean In reads like a pep talk from someone who's been in a male-dominated game (Sandberg points out that she has never reported to a woman) long enough to have seen women sabotage themselves in all kinds of ways, from scaling back at work in the mere anticipation of having children to downplaying accomplishments because they worry that their ambition will come off as unseemly. Indeed, Sandberg herself cops to having made every mistake she writes about. A chapter with pragmatic advice for women on salary negotiation includes a revealing admission that she was reluctant to negotiate with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg after his initial salary offer, which she found fair. It was only after her brother-in-law yelled, "Damn it, Sheryl! Why are you going to make less than any man would make to do the same job?" that she steeled herself and went back to Zuckerberg to demand an even better deal. "My brother-in-law didn't know the details of my deal," she writes. "His point was simply that no man at my level would consider taking the first offer." Here, as she does throughout the book, Sandberg supports her point with ample social science research, in this case citing studies demonstrating that women, much more than men, fear that negotiating for higher salaries will decrease their likability.

As with the salary-negotiation episode, Sandberg's forthright descriptions of her own experiences lend weight to the book. In some cases her candor is startling. "I worry constantly that my children are worse off because I'm not with them full-time," she admits, describing her young daughter clinging to her leg and begging her not to go on a business trip. Elsewhere she confesses to being intimidated by stay-at- home moms. The ideal she looks to is a world where men can more easily leave the workforce to care for children and more women have access to jobs like hers, which she considers rewarding enough to make the tradeoffs worthwhile.

Though she describes scenarios many women will relate to, Sandberg's advice is not one-size-fits-all, in part because of the unique culture of Silicon Valley and the privileged perch from which she's writing. She tells of a male intern advising Zuckerberg that he needed to improve his public speaking skills and being rewarded for his bluntness with a full-time job offer; it's not difficult to imagine such a risky display of chutzpah backfiring. She also recalls, as a new mother, locking her office door at Google and secretly pumping breast milk during conference calls; most women, of course, don't enjoy that level of privacy in their workplaces. And yes, her casual reference to flying on a corporate jet and the shout-outs to her buddies Gloria Steinem and Oprah in the acknowledgements highlight Sandberg's essential otherness. (When she mentions, gratefully, that she and her husband "can afford exceptional child care" and later refers to her "vast support system," my mind wandered from the book into a wistful daydream about what my life might be like with similar resources.)

But to demand that Sandberg's advice apply to all women, however, as some of her critics seem to, holds her to an impossible standard to which a man writing a similar book surely would not be subjected. Sandberg has spoken publicly on gender issues in the past, and in the book she anticipates the criticism that's already being heaped upon her. "My hope is that my message will be judged on its merits," she writes. To return to that salary negotiation with Mark Zuckerberg: some might wonder why they should care that the extremely wealthy Sheryl Sandberg managed to turn a good deal for herself at Facebook into an even better deal. But it's easy to picture women readers applying Sandberg's lesson to their own salary negotiations. Say what you like about the messenger — that's a message I wouldn't want to lose.

Barbara Spindel has covered books for Time Out New York, Newsweek.com, Details, andSpin. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies.

Reviewer: Barbara Spindel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385349949
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/11/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 782
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook. Prior to Facebook, she was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google and chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department. Sheryl lives in Northern California with her husband and their two children.
  

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Reading Group Guide

1. What does “lean in” mean? Why do you think women need to be urged to lean in?

2. The first three words in the book are “I got pregnant.” What does this signal about the kind of business book Lean In will be?

3. When Sandberg says, “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality” (p. 7), what does she mean? Have you found this statement to be accurate?

4. Why is “ambitious” often considered a derogatory word when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man?

5. In chapter 2, Sandberg discusses the impostor syndrome: feeling like a fraud, fearing discovery with each success. Why do women feel this way more often than men do? What causes the gender gap?

6. Sandberg believes that there are times when you can reach for opportunities even if you are not sure you are quite ready to take them on—and then learn by doing.  Have you ever tried this?  What have you tried?  What was the result?

7. What did you learn from the anecdote on page 36, about keeping your hand up?

8. Why did Sandberg respond so negatively to being named the fifth most powerful woman in the world?

9. When negotiating, Sandberg tells women to use the word “we” rather than “I.” Why does the choice of pronoun make such a difference? 

10. On page 48, Sandberg says, “I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations.” How do you feel about her advice?

11. What’s your take on Sandberg’s suggestion that we think of the path to a satisfying career as a jungle gym rather than a ladder? 

12. Sandberg argues that taking risks can be important in building a career.  How have you approached risk-taking in your life?

13. Sandberg argues that mentorship relationships rarely happen from asking strangers to mentor you, but rather from an opportunity to engage with someone in a more substantive way.  How has mentorship worked in your own experience?

14. People who believe that they speak “the truth” and not “their truth” can be very silencing of others, Sandberg says on page 79. What does she mean by this?

15. When considering employment after motherhood, Sandberg suggests that women shift the calculations and measure the current cost of child care against their salary ten years from now. Why is this a more effective perspective than just considering current costs? If you’re a parent, would this change your attitude toward employment and money?

16. In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of “having it all,” or even “doing it all,” and points to a poster on the wall at Facebook as a good motto: “Done is better than perfect.” (p. 125) What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find contentment?

17. Sandberg and her husband have different viewpoints about parenting: She worries about taking too much time away from their kids, while he’s proud of the time he does spend with them. Would it help women to adopt an attitude more like his?

18. In chapter 10, Sandberg discusses how the term “feminist” has taken on negative connotations. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?

19. Discuss this assertion: “Staying quiet and fitting in may have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path. But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead, we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women back, and find solutions” (pp. 146–47).

20. In the book’s final chapter, Sandberg talks about the need to work together to create equality—to allow women to thrive in the workplace, and to allow men to participate proudly in the home and child rearing. What steps can you take right now to begin to make this happen?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 167 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 167 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 24, 2013

    I'm a man, and I picked up this book to see what successful wome

    I'm a man, and I picked up this book to see what successful women are doing to see if I might learn something.

    Why not pick up a pointer or two from somebody who's gone much further in her career--and with many more obstacles--than I have in mine?

    The list of things Sheryl Sandberg has done that I haven't is lengthy. Too many times I've not spoken up when I've had things to say. At work gathering after work gathering I've failed to sit at the table with key decision makers. Time and time again I downplay myself for fear I'll be seen as a self-promoter.

    The book reminded me of something I have done, however. I've moved cross country twice on account of my wife's career. Acknowledging that my wife's profession had more upside than my own wasn't easy, and I feel fortunate that none of my family and friends criticized me for supporting her.

    Sandberg's book taught me that other men are not so lucky. I knew of the challenges that women face if they choose to assert themselves in traditionally male dominated careers, but I never appreciated the gender based scrutiny and criticism men face when they choose to support them. Husbands and wives shouldn't have to consider gender related stereotypes when deciding who works outside the home and who works in it. Simply pick the best person for the jobs.

    I give the book 4 stars instead of 5 because I think it spends too much time telling men and women to remove gender from their decisions and not enough telling them specifically how.

    56 out of 57 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Another tome expounding the necessity for women to become just l

    Another tome expounding the necessity for women to become just like men! As much as I hate to admit it, we women cannot have it all. Lean in if that is what you truly want, but know that there will be consequences and sacrifices that you will have to make to do so.
    Strangely, this book made me incredibly sad for young women in the workplace today.

    27 out of 79 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    As a  young woman entering the business world, I found this book

    As a  young woman entering the business world, I found this book incredibly helpful and relatable. I currently have no marriage
    prospects, but I already have a fear that one day I will have to choose between family and career. Sandberg  made realize that not only
    am I not alone with this concern, but it is also possible to do both. Her insight, advice, and fun stories kept me up long into the night;
    I couldn't put the book down. I am so glad I read this book at such a young age. I highly recommend this book to driven females and
    males of all ages.

    I also want to comment on a few of the negative posts.  Yes, Sandberg went to Harvard and was the daughter of a doctor. I don't see
    how this is relevant. She still had the grades to get into Harvard and had the drive and skills to become successful. Not many people
    will have the same opportunities as she did but every one can relate to the concrete advice she gives you on how to succeed. The fact
    that people are talking about this issue at all is a gender bias. There are plenty of men leaders who were born with a silver spoon but the
    comments on that subject are rare. Secondly, Sandberg does not make any negative comments about mothers who stay at
    home. She mentions many, many times that she respects those women and realizes an executive position isn't everyone's dream.
    This book is for women who want to succeed and want to balance work and family life. This doesn't mean we are better or worse than
    the stay at home moms; it simply means we are different. If you do not have the drive to succeed in the business/work/volunteer world,
    this book is simply not for you.  

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    I don't normally read career books so it was significant that I

    I don't normally read career books so it was significant that I was excited to read this one. I enjoyed reading this book which has a lot of examples and plenty of research. By the end of the book, I was encouraged to take a serious look at my career and personal goals and how my own behaviors may be holding me back from attaining those goals. I would recommend this book to all my friends.

    18 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2013

    It takes courage and a boldness to expose these topics. I applau

    It takes courage and a boldness to expose these topics. I applaud her and have found each chapter enlightening and relatable. As a female working in a predominately male organization - I found it helpful. From "Sit at the Table" to giving yourself credit where credit is due - gave me motivation and confidence to lean in. It's not sad by any means to find the balance, to empower yourself, and in the end become a role model/better mom for your children.

    16 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013

    So, being a female member of management on her way up in one of

    So, being a female member of management on her way up in one of the nation's largest grocery retailers, I had to pick up this book to find out how Sheryl did it and what all the excitement is about. My company has been around for 100+ years and I am proud to say that not only do we have women at the top, but those women are helping other women get there (through networking, real mentorship, and organizations within that promote help and promote women in getting where they want to go: all these helped me realize that I don't necessarily what to be a president but rather the TEACHER of our next one!) What was once a traditional man only club has offered ways for women and minorities to take advantage of opportunities we did not have 25 years ago. With that being said, it does come with a cost for time and time into your "other life" outside of the store. Books like these have helped me shape what I will become later for my company. I am very dedicated and loyal but have often times wondered why grocery retail? I want to provide great customer service for customers and a working environment that makes them want to come back each day for associates that are as loyal has I am. We are far from ideal but Sheryl is right. We will not be "balanced" until we see it for ourselves and DO IT, what we know is right for our families. Her book is for that middle management female on her way up who thinks that working every day and every night, email here, email there, nights away from your kids, is the only way. Ladies, your bosses go home and turn off their blackberries! I have had the pleasure of working with so many leaders in my career who have always told me to spend more time with my son., because the see how much they missed with their kids. After reading Sheryl's book, I can see now how I have missed so much and didn't have to. I can still be GREAT and have my other life, too. I had to figure out that my other life is my first life and in the few weeks since reading the book, I have made small steps in the direction that includes my son and my husband more (no more checking email when my son is awake and I am off, no working on projects during my time off, planning better during the week to get projects off my task lists so that I can have this time with my family). Probably the most important point Sheryl drives home is not taking your spouse for granted. I am that very lucky woman who has a husband who is the primary caregiver of our son, who has moved with me for a job opportunity within my company, who does not take opportunities for himself within his company because he sees the future ahead for mine, cooks and cleans, and puts up with my out of balance life. My husband is a saint and Sheryl has shown me that my husband truly is my life partner and that without him I would not be where I am today. He deserves my time, my attention, and an afternoon in his lazy chair while I entertain our kid. If Sheryl's book does anything for anyone, and no we don't all have companies that we work for that have all the features she describes, but if you can take some of her messages and apply them to your unbalanced life, how much better would it be? I do recommend this book for anyone who is moving up within their company, the men who support them and need to understand why this woman is the way she is, and I recommend this to any mentor of any aspiring associate who needs balance before she gets to where she is headed.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

     The book is engaging and a quick read, but adds little new to t

     The book is engaging and a quick read, but adds little new to the discussion of women in the workplace.  I was hoping to get more out of this book than I did.  However, Sandberg's personal experiences are interesting and worthy of reading.

    14 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013

    Psst, lean in... Here's how you do it... Have doctor parents. Be

    Psst, lean in... Here's how you do it... Have doctor parents. Be the type of person who teaches aerobics classes in high school. Go to Harvard business school. Graduate top of you class. Be Jewish. Meet sucker berg (also Jewish).

    None of this stuff applies to me. Where's the book for ex-Cathloic slackers who lack ambition, cant stand schmoozing, but don't mind working really hard? Write THAT book and I'll give ya 5 stars.

    13 out of 52 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Question: When is a book not a book. Answer: When it has 37 fo

    Question: When is a book not a book.

    Answer: When it has 37 footnotes by the 24th page.

    Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is nothing more than a thesis paper thinly disguised and marketed by the publishing company as the next "it" book for women. Well...not all women; at least in my mind.

    Why, you ask? The reality is that most women are never going to get the opportunity to work in a Fortune 500 company as an executive. Now that's not to say that women won't have opportunities to work in large or mid-size corporations. Let's face it. Most top level jobs are already taken, and if the company is worth its salt, the chance for advancement is slim because those at the top like their jobs and tend to stay, especially when the company is well established and appreciates their staff.

    So what kind of message is Ms. Sandberg sending to the average American woman? On the surface, I can't quite figure it out. Perhaps we need to dig a little deeper here. If her book is merely a dissertation on the battle between the sexes and the inequality of paychecks, then sadly, the author is really behind the times and she hasn't told us anything that we haven't already heard.

    However, if she is saying that we, as women, will never be happy unless we occupy every top level executive position in the country, well then, I beg to differ? What if our mothers decided they didn't want to be our mothers and just wanted to climb that corporate ladder, then where would we be? What if I don't want to be a top level executive at a Fortune 500 company? Can't I be happy doing exactly what I am doing right now? What if I don't want to be a leader? What if there are other women who don't want to be leaders? Is being a leader the only road to happiness? I think not. I have a lot of will and ambition, but my desires don't necessarily point me in that direction.

    But, let's take this a little further. Ms. Sandberg says on page 10 (Kindle version) that she "would never advocate that we should have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire....We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values and dreams." This is great, however, the overall message of the book makes it seem that the only correct life choice that we, as women, should have is to be on that corporate ladder climbing toward the top rung to obtain equality. She says on page 10 (Kindle version) "If we succeed in adding more female voices at the highest levels, we will expand opportunities and extend fairer treatment to all."

    Now that the author has highly advocated that we, as women, should go for that top rung, and we succeed in adding more women to top level positions, where's the guarantee that fairer treatment and equality will occur? Also, while I thank her for supporting us in making choices, but then tell us in the next breath that we, as women, should all be leaning into our careers to level the playing field just seems to send out a mixed message. And, let's not even talk about the underlying subtext of the "you should be doing it this way because this is the way I did it, I know it works, and you will be successful and happy if you do it this way." With so many inconsistencies throughout this book, it makes it difficult to see what the real point is here.

    To circle back around to the very beginning of my review, this entire book reads like a master's thesis paper for one of Sandberg's Harvard classes. While I can appreciate the fact that she loves to "rely on hard data and academic research" (page 9, Kindle version), some of us would have just preferred her thoughts on the subject backed up by her real life experiences. The 227 footnotes is a little excessive and limits the audience from any opportunity to flush out the details, not to mention the loss of flow while reading due to constantly having to flip back and forth between the book and the footnotes. How are we as the readers suppose to know if these thoughts are really hers or those that were referenced? And, who really has time to read through, in depth, all of these footnotes, including researching the sources of those said footnotes? Certainly not myself.

    Now, I will admit that there are some principals in this book that can be followed and adapted to fit every women's life. (Note: It took until almost the last couple of chapters to find some kernals of wisdom. Any hope of finding something earlier in the book is simply lost within the text stemming from the research and footnotes.) Perhaps these few morsels were the real intent of the book, but the message simply was too muddied up in her intelligentsia. As a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business school, there is no doubt that Sheryl is a smart woman; however, she would have better served her audience if she had spoken to us and not above us. As a college graduate, I have the capability of dissecting and extrapolating information; however, others might not be able to do so, or if they were it would be with great difficulty. Perhaps there is something here, I just don't see it. Maybe it got lost in the translation.

    Overall, I think the message to "lean in" to "whatever" could have been delivered with a little less reliance on statistics and information from other sources. The one thing the book failed to mention is after we, as women, work so hard to get to the top rung, what do we do when we get there? It seems that the author and her colleagues have spent too much time climbing the corporate ladder, missing out on having some fun and losing the opportunities to be truly creative and produce something that will leave a lasting mark on the world, other than to say, I was the CEO/COO (or some other high level position) of such and such company. As for me, I would rather not strive for the top rung, but hang back a few steps, and enjoy the creativity and fun afforded to me at that level while enjoying life a whole lot more.

    11 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Just want to express my gratitude to the author and BN; I enjoy

    Just want to express my gratitude to the author and BN; I enjoy reading every single page. She is insightful, articulate and passionate about her views. It is exceptionality well written. I love how she dismantle all the common views we as women have about ourselves. I love the chapter on “Are you my mentor? “It’s truly open your eyes on what it is to be a mentor and what it takes to have someone mentoring you, I was always going about it the wrong way . Thanks to her I know understand what someone feels when they are asked to be a mentor. Seriously LOVE this book!!!

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2013

    Femi-nazi

    Same old tired and overused rhetoric designed to divide and fault differing life perspectives. Why can't some women accept the reality that not everyone wants to deal with the caddy corporate BS?

    8 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    Another judge mental woman, some people can't do what they want

    Another judge mental woman, some people can't do what they want and its by reason of having a disability that enables them to achieve their dreams, and goals.  I'm really starting to get annoyed with how she and other women are so judge mental of women who rather live the once so called american dream to stay home and let the man take care of them

    8 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2013

    Should be required reading for all young women!!

    An excellect, insightful look at what motivates and hinders women in the work place. This book is not only a great read for any woman, but any manager, or employer who seeks to grow and improve his work force. Lean In uses personal stories, scholarly studies, and collected data to educate the reader about this relevant and important topic. It is well written, and one finds himself (herself!), looking foward to the next chapter. This book has left it's mark on me, I venture that anyone who thoughtfully reads it will be impacted in a positive way.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2013

    Love this book! She is so authentic. I wish I had read this when

    Love this book! She is so authentic. I wish I had read this when I was 18!

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2013

    Very disappointed

    This book is just chapter after chapter on how to balance your work life while being a mother. If you don't want to read about that, then don't bother!

    I was really hoping for insights on being successful as a woman and career wise, not how to find a good husband and raise your kids!

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Didn't Expect To Like It, But Did

    Well, it's hard not to be disarmed by someone who, in the first few pages, tells you that she spent the nine months of her first pregnancy bent over a toilet, gained 70 pounds, and couldn't recognize her feet. Not long after that, she tells you that she felt like a failure when she got a divorce in her twenties.

    Sandberg's willingness to model that for which she argues, and share her stories, be vulnerable (lean in) increases the books authenticity and increases the likelihood that the reader will be receptive to what she's trying to say, and be motivated to internalize those messages. She wisely acknowledges that her call for women to lean in does not mean that men and businesses and the like don't have some leaning in to do as well, and also that leaning in is not the right choice for all women, all the time. Having dispensed with those inevitable rejoinders, she moves swiftly and crisply through her thoughts (carefully well-supported by data) on women, work, and leadership. She's less about how to do something--sit at the table, for example--than about why she believes that something is important. This more cerebral orientation also aids the book's brisk pace.

    I think it would be easy to see this book as only for women who have both families, and careers (whether they love those careers or not), who probably make choices with which they feel uneasy every day. There is tremendous value in Lean In's validation of the difficulty of navigating these roles and making these choices.

    But I hope others read this book, too. I think the only thing you need to be to see the value of living in the world for which Sandberg hopes--the one in which you do as you've dreamed without internal and external obstacles holding you back--is a person.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    this speaks to women who want and have it all

    I bought and sent this book to my daughter-in-law, an upper management civil servant with three children under 6 years old. This is what she said: I strangely feel the need to comment via my Facebook status on the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I was kind of prepared not to like it, but wow, I identify with almost everything she says. So many good passages I'd like to quote, or share with my employees. I highly recommend it...maybe once it's available at the library. Sheryl doesn't need the book sales to pay the bills.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Recommend for women and men in business

    The only thing about this book I was disappointed in was that I didn't have this book to read 30 years ago! Now in my 50s the book is still of great value, but oh! How much more I could have achieved with this great advise in my 20s! And men, don't let the title put you off. This is a great book for men in business too.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    Some of what Sheryl Sandberg discusses in her book is on par wit

    Some of what Sheryl Sandberg discusses in her book is on par with Daniel Pink's 2009-2010 book DRIVE. Considering myself to be a lifelong and career optimist, I believe firmly in the power of people to affect change, but our corporate, business, and government leaders need to do more than just recommend these books to their staffs and subordinates.  Both women and men who aspire to leadership and positive change have to be recognized by those at the head of the table. And those men and women at that head have to be willing to wager a bit more on the likelihood of greater success and eventually toss out the mantra of "it's always been done this way."

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2013

    Great Book! Great read for those in their twenties

    Great Book! Would make a great gift for the graduating college senior.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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