Having just finished the book Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg I wanted to share some of her great insights. First though, I wanted to mention why I read the book. After all, I am a guy and this is a book about “Women, Work and the Will to Lead” as the cover announces. Well, it is excellent food for thought for ANYONE and Sandberg does a great job of putting some very dicey issues in healthy perspective, often with a sense of humor. She finds herself the butt of the joke as she unblinkingly looks at her own actions and decisions in her life and career. As I read it I imagined her smiling through her message, just as she is doing on the book’s cover. Now, on to some of her insights:
How do we look at women in the workplace? This topic is worth the price of the book alone, because men AND women are so impacted by our thought patterns and history. We don’t even realize how we too often keep women “in their place.” One fascinating fact: “A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.” In other words, we are much less likely to give women the benefit of the doubt. They have to already be there before we give the chance to move up. She notes Warren Buffett has said he feels he has been competing against only half the population all these years because women are too often not reaching their full potential.
How a woman’s decisions impact her path to leadership. Sandberg mentions one of her favorite sayings on the wall of Facebook headquarters: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It makes a point that leads into her observation that too many women “quit before they quit.” Knowing they may want to have a child sometime in the future they start leaning back – passing on opportunities, holding off on career progress and ultimately setting themselves up for less fulfilling work and fewer real promotions. I have seen it happen. Have you? Sandberg suggests women “Lean In” until the day they leave for maternity leave, for example, instead of backing off months or even years earlier.
Men need to be better partners at home. This point plays out very clearly for women we expect to “have it all” while also expecting them to “do it all.” How many women who work outside the home then come home and also take care of all the cooking, childcare, cleaning and washing? It is wildly unfair and can only change when we ALL understand the importance of ALL of these jobs – inside and outside the home.
This only scratches the surface, but as a Dad to two great daughters and someone who has many women clients, this is my favorite read so far this year and a book I strongly recommend for men and women who want to make this world a better, more balanced place.
Please follow along through the month @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.