Lean In Don’t be afraid to take action. Women, work, and the will to lead: Awesome summary by ebookhike

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Author: Sheryl Sandberg 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Sheryl Sandberg 2013

Lean In
Lean In

Are women leaders still not enough? (Lean In)

Lean In: Over the past decades, the situation with the rights and opportunities of women in the world has improved significantly. But the ideal situation is still far away even in developed countries.

The number of women holding high positions is still small. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most influential in the world of business and leadership. But very few women achieve such career heights. Only about 4% of the world’s corporate leadership positions are held by women. In Russia, the percentage ratio is better, but in many areas of the economy and politics, there are still far fewer women leaders than male leaders. 

The data from different studies are radically different from each other, so we do not give specific figures. The statistics can also be distorted by the fact that many men, the actual owners, and managers of Russian companies, formally assign the business to their wives and daughters.

In not very high positions, women and men are usually approximately equal, because, after graduation, both begin to work. But the higher up the career ladder, the more men and fewer women.

According to statistics, women are often paid less than men for the same job. 

Sheryl Sandberg delves into the reasons that prevent women from becoming leaders and encourages readers – both women and men – to change the relationships in their families and companies so that each person has the opportunity to realize their ambitions.

She is convinced that real equality will come when salaries are equal and about half of the leadership positions are occupied by women, and household work (cleaning, cooking, raising children) will be performed by men on an equal basis with women, that is, when traditional gender roles recede into the background.

Why is it important that more women build careers and become leaders?

Being a housewife is also a lot of work, and many find joy and meaning in life in it. But at the same time, housewives do not get the benefits that high-paying interesting work provides.

Benefits of working for women:

1. Salary and social package, financial independence. Even if the husband’s salary is enough for everything, no one is immune from family problems or divorce. Then your own money is needed especially strongly. Contribution to the family budget also gives a woman’s voice more weight on important issues. 

2. Opportunities for self-development. Implementation of one’s ideas, solving not only domestic everyday problems but also complex professional tasks, and communication with colleagues – all contributes to the disclosure of a woman’s personal potential. Of course, raising children also develops a person. But when a mother has a professional life outside the family, it greatly expands her circle of communication and interests.

3. The ability to maintain interest and taste for life, even when the children grow up and leave the parental home. Many women who focus exclusively on children experience depression when the children grow up and no longer feel the need for parental care and help. Favorite work allows you to survive this difficult period without significant losses. 

Women often worry that if they work hard, their children will not have enough care and attention. But studies show that in many families where both parents devote time to their favorite work and self-realization, children develop even more harmoniously, and the relationship between the spouses themselves is stronger than in families where only one father works.

Even more opportunities for self-development and financial growth are provided by leadership – the management of projects and other people.

Many people do not strive for power, for leadership, because they are simply not interested in it. And this is absolutely normal. But there are also those who want to be promoted and solve more complex and interesting tasks but have not yet decided on specific actions in this direction. Sheryl Sandberg is trying to inspire them to take advantage of the chances that life gives. She invites every woman to ask herself the question: what would I do if I were not afraid?

Professional leadership provides many opportunities to change organizations, society, and the lives of individuals for the better. Implement bold and ambitious ideas, create new opportunities (projects, jobs), and feel satisfaction from the inspiring results of your work. 

Sheryl Sandberg is also convinced that the more women in power, the better it will affect the reputation and rights of women around the world. Therefore, the development of women’s leadership is of strategic importance. 

Women in leadership positions can also contribute to the advancement of women in lower positions.

Cheryl was pregnant with her first child in 2004. She took the pregnancy quite hard, gained weight, and was clumsy, and she constantly vomited in the morning. 

Then she worked at Google. The company was growing rapidly, there were more and more employees, and in the morning it was difficult to find a parking space near the office. One day, Cheryl arrived at work, and there were no empty seats close to the entrance. She staggered from the back of the parking lot to the door, and she felt even more nauseous than usual. 

That evening, her husband told her that at Yahoo!, where he worked, there were several parking spaces specifically for pregnant women. The next day, Cheryl told Google management that she and other pregnant women needed such places. Sergey Brin, of course, agreed and said that he had simply never thought about this problem.

Cheryl held one of the highest positions in the company. She admits that before her own pregnancy, she also did not think about separate parking. Other pregnant women also worked at Google, who most likely had a hard time if they could not find a place close to the entrance. But they silently endured, probably because it was embarrassing for them to go to the authorities to resolve this issue. Due to her high position, Cheryl did not hesitate to contact the management, which immediately solved the problem. 

Some research also shows that companies with both male and female leaders are more efficient. Women often have the best intuition, attention to detail, thoroughness, and a cautious attitude to risk. Men, on the contrary, are more prone to risk and bold decisions. Both tactics of behavior are useful for the company in different situations.

This data is ambiguous. There are studies showing that, on the contrary, personal qualities are almost independent of gender: for example, both men and women can be equally inclined or not inclined to take risks. However, this approach legitimizes women’s right to lead even better.

What prevents women from becoming leaders?

External barriers:

1. Gender bias.

Society still divides women into “real” and “fake”. “Real” – soft, compliant and caring. If a woman builds a career, demonstrates her mind, and shows great ambition and perseverance – she is “fake”, not the way a woman should be.

This happens because of gender prejudice, because of the roles that people have long played in traditional societies. But the world has changed, and the need to adhere to the old rules has disappeared. Women can build a career as well as men, and men can raise children and clean the house just as well as their wives. Nevertheless, in the minds of many people (actually the majority), the division into roles remains: “it is not a man’s business” to change diapers, “it is not a woman’s business” to run the country.

According to this division, the main thing for a woman is to be a good housewife, wife, and mother. If a woman, by her life path, shows that she has other priorities, this often makes a negative impression on people.

Almost no one likes strong and successful women – neither men nor other women.

In 2003, an experiment was conducted at Columbia University Business School. A group of students was given a text to read about a woman named Heidi who had a very successful career. Another group was given the same text, but the heroine’s name was changed to a male – Howard. And asked both groups to share their impressions of the heroine/hero. Both Heidi and Howard were rated by students as competent professionals. But Howard seemed to them at the same time a nice, pleasant person, but Heidi did not. Absolutely the same set of personal and professional qualities and achievements, which was described in the text, was evaluated differently, depending on who possessed it – a man or a woman. Heidi’s career ambitions and perseverance did not fit into the image of an ideal woman, and Howard, as a man, was very to the face.

Therefore, some successful women intuitively behave in public as more “feminine”. Not wanting to seem like iron ladies and thus lose their attractiveness and sympathy from the public, they are modest and downplay their professional merits. 

Prejudice against men also affects the lives of women. Some women who would like to achieve more do not do so in order not to hurt the dignity of their partners. Because, just as there are “fake” women, there are “fake” men who earn less than their wives.

In the eyes of society, the husband of a successful woman (especially if she is a quiet and non-public person) is henpecked. And if he also takes maternity leave while his wife works, he is a weakling. 

Therefore, even men with progressive views are not always willing to support the ambitions of their wives. And only a few agree to go on maternity leave.

In relations with colleagues, gallant, benevolent sexism is also widespread. A well-meaning man takes on a more difficult task to make it easier for his female counterpart. Such an act is caused by the belief that women are weaker and need protection. Some women enjoy it, but others feel stupid. The danger of this approach is that, as a result, a man gains more valuable experience and is more likely to be promoted in the future than a woman who did not solve difficult problems.


2. Lack of mentorship and surety.

For career development, it is very useful to have mentors and guarantors. Mentors are people who give us the advice to help us succeed. And the guarantors are those who have a certain power and influence and at the right time can recommend us, and vouch for us.

The problem is that close relationships between women and high-ranking men (their potential guarantors and mentors) are viewed through the prism of sex. Even if a man wants to help a woman without such overtones, it is difficult to do so. Their frequent conversations serve as an occasion for gossip, and their business dinner is like a date. It’s embarrassing for both. As a result, if they do not want a sexual connection, it is easier for them to avoid close relationships, including such important ones as mentorship and sponsorship.


3. Lack of time.

In most families, women still do most of the housework. In this situation, it is very difficult to manage everything – both to devote time to the family and build a career. 

Few people can hire a nanny or pay for housecleaning. True, in Russia, more often than in Western countries, grandparents help young families. Nevertheless, the birth of children usually stimulates a man to work even harder (to earn for the family), and a woman, on the contrary, to devote more time to their upbringing, and not to her professional ambitions.

Therefore, women often leave their careers. Men, thanks to the fact that they are freed from most household chores, can combine an intense professional life with a personal, and family life. A woman, if her husband or other relatives are not ready to help her regularly, has to choose one thing.


Internal barriers:

1. Modesty, lack of ambition, and self-confidence.

People often underestimate their abilities and experience. According to research, women tend to do this more than men. 

Men are more willing to take on new opportunities because they believe they are capable of more. Women, on the other hand, are more often stopped by caution and fear of not coping. This is one of the reasons why there are more men than women in senior positions: they simply offer their candidacies more often.

In psychology, the impostor syndrome is well known, when it seems to a person (even a talented and hardworking one) that he is not good enough and takes someone else’s place. A little more, he thinks, and I will make a mistake, and everyone will immediately understand that I really can’t do anything. Since women are more likely to disbelieve in themselves, impostor syndrome is more common in them. Sheryl Sandberg writes that, against all logic, even she regularly feels like a liar about to be exposed.

In 2011, Forbes ranked Cheryl as the fifth most powerful woman in the world. When colleagues and friends congratulated her, she was extremely embarrassed, and she replied that this list was complete nonsense. But Cheryl’s personal assistant, Camille Hart, told her that her modesty only shows that she is not confident in herself. This list is an acknowledgment of Cheryl’s merits, and she should accept congratulations with dignity and thank her for her attention.

Self-doubt also leads to the fact that women are much less likely to ask for a pay rise. For many men, asking for better terms is completely natural, while women are content with less.

There is also a curious difference in typical reactions to failure and criticism. Men often explain their mistakes by external factors and circumstances. Women are more likely to blame themselves and see their failures as proof of their lack of ability. As a result, their self-esteem falls more than men’s.

All people – both women and men – need to cultivate confidence in their abilities and capabilities, this helps a lot in life. Belief in oneself opens many doors that a person has not dared to knock on or enter before.


2. Maximalism, the desire to do everything perfectly.

The second reason is related to the first – a lack of self-confidence. Many women try to prove to themselves and their surroundings that they can be perfect and do everything one hundred percent. Those who combine career and family life go out of their way to be the best colleague, hostesses, wives, and mothers at the same time.

But it’s impossible to be perfect. This approach only leads to guilt and emotional burnout.

Realizing that they will not be able to perfectly cope with everything at once (but not wanting to give up striving for the ideal), many women leave the race in advance. They begin to turn down career opportunities long before they have children. “I can’t perfectly combine both. I’d better choose one thing in advance, now.” As a result, all those months or even years that could be spent on professional growth, these women remain in one place and deprive themselves of the best prospects. After maternity leave, they return to their previous or similar jobs. If they devoted the time before the birth of the child to career development, they would have much better prospects after the decree.


3. Fear at the wrong time to show weakness, “feminine qualities.”

Many women do not know how to restrain emotions and cry in difficult times. And it seems to them that with such a character they definitely cannot be leaders. After all, being very upset and even more so crying at work is “a manifestation of weakness and unprofessionalism.” In addition, from the outside, crying can also look like a means of manipulation, an attempt to achieve what you want by putting pressure on pity.

Sheryl Sandberg writes that she, too, is crying because of work troubles. Sometimes crying is uncontrollable, and that’s okay. The modern leader does not have to be tough. A person who is not ashamed of his feelings and emotions is more likely to show empathy for the experiences of other people – his subordinates, colleagues, and partners. This is a valuable quality for a leader.

How can we increase the number of women leaders?

What to do for women:

1. Analyze your self-image.

If you are not confident in yourself, it is quite possible that you evaluate yourself as biased.

You can be seriously confident in something – and not right. If you believe that you are not smart enough or good enough for a certain job, this belief may be wrong. Analyze, and question your (and others) low opinion of yourself. And don’t believe the stereotypes that say you can’t do something.

Even Sheryl Sandberg, a very successful woman, often experiences self-doubt. Which, of course, does not mean that she evaluates herself objectively. And she constantly struggles with this oppressive feeling.

You need to develop confidence in yourself. A good psychologist or a kind friend who will remind you of your virtues and achievements can help with this. And praise yourself more often.

It can be helpful to feign confidence even when you are actually afraid. If you pretend and take the right posture, it helps to really feel more confident.

2. Set high goals, and develop ambitions in yourself.

You need to take the initiative and strive to solve complex problems. 

3. Feel free to respond to interesting vacancies, and ask for a raise. 

Even if you are not one hundred percent (and, for example, only fifty) meet the requirements. Everything can be learned on the job. Believing that you are not good enough for the desired job, you are depriving yourself of a chance. As a result, this job will most likely be received not by the one who is better suited, but by the one who was simply more courageous. There are no ideal candidates.

4. Take more risks, including changing the scope of activities if you want. 

Sheryl Sandberg advises not to be afraid to change life dramatically, and also to look for opportunities in those companies that have the potential for rapid growth (primarily in startups).

After graduating from university, Cheryl managed to work as an assistant to the chief economist of the World Bank in Washington, participate in a field mission to India, receive additional education at a business school in Cambridge, leave for a year in Los Angeles, return to Washington and become the chief of staff of the Treasury Department, and years later, move back to California to become part of Google and, later, Facebook.

5. Try to find yourself, mentors, and guarantors. 

The relationship between mentoring and guaranteeing usually does not arise artificially, but on the basis of joint work and interests. It’s almost pointless to ask people you don’t know well to spend time and energy on you or even vouch for you. You can also contact them, not for long-term support, but for specific advice or a small request.

To attract the attention of people who can help build your career, try to achieve some success first. Mentors and sponsors tend to be much more interested in those who are already good at something. The best proof of your potential for them is the success you have already achieved (albeit small so far).

6. Don’t back down.

Do not take aggressive attacks too personally if they happen. It is impossible to please and please everyone. Just keep doing your job.

7. Do not leave the race ahead of time due to a planned pregnancy.

If you are going to get pregnant soon, there is still time to devote to your professional development. For some women, it even takes several years from the decision to have a child to the birth of a child. Therefore, you should not hold back your career ambitions, thinking that there is no time to realize them. If you improve your position before your maternity leave, you will be happier to return to work after it ends.

8. Do not strive for the ideal in everything.

Perfectionism is not always helpful. If you combine a career and an active personal life, or even more so raising children, it is better to accept the fact that you will not always have enough time to control and maintain order in everything. A certain amount of clutter both at home and at work is inevitable, but it can be taken with irony. It’s impossible to be a superwoman.

9. Choose such men who will gladly share household chores with you.

Sheryl Sandberg, from her experience, advises looking for partners who adhere to progressive views, support the ambitions of women, and are ready to participate equally in routine housework and raising children. 

A man with more traditional views on gender roles may seem romantic at the start of a relationship. But it will be more difficult to get from him a real partnership and respect for the dreams and aspirations of a woman.

10. Support other women.

Women are disliked most often not even by men, but by other women. High (higher than in most developed countries) competition for men in Russia has led to the fact that in our country this is especially pronounced. In addition, many women sincerely share stereotypes, considering other women not smart enough, beautiful, or worthy. Career-minded people often speak disdainfully of housewives and vice versa.

This attitude only harms everyone. Sheryl Sandberg advises women to support each other, not to succumb to envy and misogyny. Together, women are much more effective in protecting their rights and interests.

Misogyny – hatred, hostility, prejudice against women, misogyny.

Don’t be afraid of the “feminist” label. Feminists are not at all man-haters or unloved embittered furies. Even men can be feminists. These are just people who believe in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Most progressive, educated people can be called feminists.


What to do for men:

1. Support women at home and at work, and be positive about their professional ambitions.

2. Take more care of children and household chores so that women have the strength to advance their careers. Value women’s time as highly as your own.


What to do for everyone:

1. Support the career aspirations of familiar women, and colleagues.

Become mentors and guarantors, just support with a kind word. Stand up for colleagues if they are discriminated against. Allow women to solve complex problems and develop.

The management of companies should launch formal programs for the development of women’s leadership, as well as mentoring and professional development for all employees – both women and men. 

2. Be interested in the opinion of those who, most likely, have something to say, but are silent.

There are many smart and talented people who are embarrassed to speak out loud because they are not confident in themselves. By asking for their opinion, you help them feel more competent and confident.

3. Analyze your likes and dislikes for other people.

Most people believe that gender bias exists, not with them, but with others. This tendency to think that other people are more prejudiced than ourselves is what sociologists call the dead zone of cognitive biases. In fact, stereotypes, to a greater or lesser extent, affect every person. If we think that we evaluate other people objectively, without any prejudice, we are wrong. We have prejudices that we are not even aware of.

When we evaluate another person (for example, a subordinate), we need to remember that, as much as we would like to, we cannot be completely objective and fair. 

Analyze your likes and dislikes, and ask yourself: do I not like this employee because she really does not work well, or simply because she does not correspond to my ideas of what a woman should be?

4. Raise the topic of women’s rights and women’s leadership in society and in your company.

As already mentioned, often our prejudices are subconscious. By bringing this topic up, we encourage people to consciously reflect, rethink, and possibly change their attitudes and behaviors.

Moreover, those people who are directly affected by stereotypes often believe them themselves and are guided by them. For example, a woman may not ask for a raise, believing she can’t do it because she “isn’t smart enough and determined enough, let John try.” 

Google found that male employees were much more likely than females to nominate themselves for senior positions. Google did not take this statistic indifferently but shared it with women working in the company. This prompted the female employees to reflect and discuss the reasons why they rarely asked for a raise. After the discussion, they began to put forward their candidacies much more actively.

5. Raise daughters on an equal footing with boys, do not instill in children gender roles. 

For girls to become successful and independent women, leadership ambitions and fighting qualities must be encouraged, not suppressed. 

Just like girls, boys need to be taught to do housework, to allow them to show emotions and cry. This will help them in the future to become men who are not ashamed of their feelings and capable of a partnership, where relationships are built on equality, mutual assistance, and respect.

“You are a man” and “you are a girl” are not the best words for the harmonious and comprehensive development of a child. It is necessary to educate children so that they know that the choice of life’s path is not connected with gender, but with individual preferences, hobbies, and talents.

10 best thoughts on one page

1. Many women still have fewer career opportunities than men. Equality will come when wages are equal and women take leadership positions on an equal footing with men, with half of the household work (cleaning, cooking, raising children) being done by men.

2. Gender bias is still widespread. Largely because of them, women rarely occupy high positions. 

3. We have biases that we don’t even realize. To evaluate both yourself and other people more objectively, you need to analyze your likes and dislikes, ask yourself about the true reasons (what really caused my attitude?), and look for honest answers.

4. The more women in power, the better it will affect the reputation and rights of other women around the world. Women in leadership positions can also directly improve the position of women in lower positions in these companies.

5. Gallant sexism (protecting women from difficult tasks) is dangerous for women’s careers. As a result, men get more valuable experience and are more likely to be promoted in the future than their female counterparts who do not work with difficult tasks.

6. Without the support of relatives, it is almost impossible to combine career and family life. Therefore, it is so important to find the right partner – someone who will take on half of the household duties and will be sincerely happy with the professional success of a woman. Men with traditional views on gender roles rarely become such partners. 

7. It is better to raise children without reference to traditional gender roles so that their choice of life paths does not depend on gender, but on individual preferences, hobbies and talents.

8. You need to develop self-confidence. It helps to fight fear, seize your chances and achieve success. 

9. Perfectionism is bad. It is impossible to be an ideal mother, wife, mistress, and colleague at the same time. Striving to be a superwoman only leads to frustration, guilt, and burnout. Instead of giving up a career or a family, it is better to have both but resign yourself to the fact that ideals are artificial and unattainable.

10. When a woman begins to think about children, she still has time to devote to career growth and self-development. Do not leave the race ahead of time.

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