lean inWhat are women doing to sabotage their careers? Why aren’t there more female business leaders even though the same number of women as men are graduating from business school? Why are women dropping out of the workforce?

These are great questions and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg addresses them all in her best seller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. In this well-written, provocative and inspiring book, Sandberg hits on uncomfortable points in a one-stop shop. She covers women’s fears in the workplace to include the fear of having more success than one’s husband, the smart move of investing in daycare and staying in the workforce as a way to insure for one’s future career, and how being vulnerable and feminine can actually be a plus in the workplace. She also doesn’t shy away from revealing her own mistakes like the time she forgot her to put son in a green T-shirt on St. Patrick’s Day and one of the other mothers called her out on it. Not afraid to poke fun at herself, Sandberg comes across as a nice person who cares deeply about how women can trust their power and make real change happen.

4 Reasons Lean In Rang True for Me

  • One of the ways women sabotage their careers is that they leave before they leave, meaning they stop taking challenging assignments or accept travel that will get them promoted before they have children. Before the kids! Most men wouldn’t do this, and that’s one of the reasons there are fewer women at the top. Instead, women need to carry on and not back off before they’re pregnant and when they’re pregnant, they should evaluate and step forward into more challenging roles if they can. When everything’s new and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s the best time to act! When my son was a few weeks old, I enrolled in a creative writing correspondence course at UNC-Friday Center to prepare for grad school. With my daughter five years later, I came back from maternity leave at the charter school where I was teaching 9th grade English, found out my job would end in June, and ramped up my networking, so I’d have writing work when I’d leave my position. 
  • Speaking of maternity leave, Sandberg speaks of women who opt to stay at home, and save on daycare expenses rather than continue working. She reasons that staying in the workforce, rather than taking a break and coming back six years later, is smart career move because when you take a break you lose steam and can almost never get back to where you were before. I returned to my teaching job when my daughter was six weeks old and daycare cost me more than my monthly pay. Sad, but true. I finished my assignment and no one could take away the fact than I was a high school English teacher for a year. This position gave me instant credibility and I banked on that experience for many years. 
  • Sandberg says that if you don’t have a husband/partner who supports your choices and your career—then forget it! You’ll be miserable. Not having a partner who doesn’t want to feed the kids when you’re working late or who gives you a hard time when you want to spend time and money on education or travel will spell doom for your career. I have a great husband who is a true partner and who understands (most of the time) when I need to teach on weekends and attend out-of-town conferences. And there’s an added benefit: when the kids see Dad with them at home, they’ll be more open about gender roles and will be better-adjusted adults. 
  • Fear is the biggest obstacle in a woman’s career. The fear that you’re not good enough, the fear of being judged, the fear of taking risks, of making mistakes, and on and on … Fear also plays a role when you want everyone to like you and you don’t want to say no to your boss or to your clients. Sandberg discusses how she was scared after her first child she wouldn’t be taken seriously because she didn’t work 12 hour days—she modified her schedule to 8 hours and it took her a long time to be open with others about her hours, for fear she looked like wasn’t working as  hard. This is ridiculous. There need to be more work places where results matter more than facetime. That’s why so many people join the ranks of the entrepreneur movement—we can make our own hours and set our own boundaries. At the beginning of my business, which is now seven years old (yay!) I told clients I couldn’t take calls around my kids’ dinner or bedtimes and I could only do breakfast or lunch meetings, so my family would have dinner together most nights.

Lean In is a fantastic book to get the discussion going again about feminism, the “mommy” wars, female leadership and much, much more. Not only should it be required reading for women; it should be required for men as well. Sandberg notes that men will also benefit from women succeeding in the business world and the world will benefit from more women leaders. Women are more powerful than we think we are and it’s time we acknowledge this power and use it for good. So dream big, aim high and stop saying you need to wait till the kids are older before you’ll take a risk.

Sheryl Sandberg encourages you to continue the conversation on Facebook and in LeanIn.org.