This book was Rebecca and Allison’s proposal for September’s book club hosted in their blogs, and I didn’t know the book or the author, but I read the synopsis and I thought it would be an interesting read.

Lean In

Sandberg has worked as the CEO in several of the most important companies in the world, such as Facebook and Google, and she is also a wife and a mother of two children, so she really has a lot to say about how to reconcile work and family since she has managed to arrive at home almost every day for dinner and has kept herself at the top in workplaces where she has worked. In this book she exposes through different surveys and her own personal experiences why women are not equally represented in politics or business, despite the fact that women in the first world have a high education in the same average as men; and how we (men and women) can change this situation.

Sandberg explains the way girls are treated from when they are little, punishing ambitious or bossy behaviours and encouraging them to be tolerant and understanding towards others, since ambitious and bossy boys are seen as the preferable ones. Even at school, boys get more attention from the teachers than girls and later, in a meeting at work, women are less listened to and more interrupted than men, as if what they have to say is less important than what men bring up. Sandberg gives a few tips to improve our speaking as women, since we are more likely to be taken into account when we talk in plural (we) than when we talk in singular (I) because we sound selfish and arrogant (unlike men), for example when we are negotiating with superiors. I studied some of these things in the Master’s of Education a couple of years ago, but it never stops shocking me.

Then is the issue about having a family: Sandberg shows that many women stop prospering in their jobs because they think someday they will have a family, such that they shouldn’t accept positions of responsibility, sometimes even years before having a partner and consequently a family, for when that day comes. Later, when they have a maternity break, they are more likely to give up their jobs because they are overqualified and their job is not challenging enough for them. So she encourages women to get their aims both at work and also at home because she thinks, and she is the living example of it, that we can succeed in both careers.

But we can’t succeed alone owing to the fact that we can’t do everything at the same time, so that’s when Sandberg talks about our partners and how we have to choose the one who doesn’t consider their children being a hobby, delegate a number of daily activities, and how women have to cooperate with each other instead of thinking that we have to compete against other women.

One thingI liked very much how she explains all these issues by addressing one of them in each chapter, so that you can actually discuss chapter by chapter, giving examples including herself or people she knows and talking about surveys that have been made in the workforce and schools. But don’t think she is a superwoman; she has also made mistakes and has been afraid of doing or not doing something at work, and she talks about her fears and expectations, and the conclusions of her decisions.

There were also other things that I consider that are only relevant in a big (American) company context, such as mentoring and sponsoring, or how she had scheduled her working hours in order to stay more time at home, since I think most women just have a timetable they have to follow at their workplace, without the freedom Sandberg has.

On the other hand, while I was reading, I couldn’t stop thinking about the documentary Miss Representation, which addresses another perspective of the problem about women not being in relevant positions, which is the view of women as sexual objects on TV, films and adverts. This documentary talks about the lack of examples of successful women in real life for girls nowadays, since the successful ones seem to be actresses, pop singers or women on the gossip programs on TV, whose main achievement is being slim and pretty. Even when a woman is in a position of power and responsibility, for example a politician, magazines and newspapers talk about her clothes or her hairstyle – mainly to criticize them – whereas men are mentioned only for their achievements or goals, so those women in power are still seen as women in power, not as politicians. The documentary also directs attention towards the education we have at home and by the media, which has reminded me some photographs of a little girl dressed as a princess that everybody should see.

To sum up, this has been an inspiring read, thanks to which I have known another wonderful and successful woman to admire. It has also been great to discuss the points Sandberg brings up with other woman readers and see that things are different in other countries (according to Mel, white people and men in general are discriminated in South Africa since contracting black people and women has advantages to companies there, which is shocking!). It has been a good choice for a book club.

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