Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My views on Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

My friend has just been promoted at work, however, did not receive the appropriate monetary compensation in conjunction with her new position.

We were talking about possible scenarios that could play out to rectify this obvious oversight. She told me about a book she had just read where the author stated that more women needed to Lean In. She was asking me if I thought she should Lean In. I told her, "Absolutely".

Since my conversation with my friend, it had been rattling around in my head. I was definitely intrigued by what this book had to offer. A few weeks later I borrowed Lean In from the library.

Firstly, a little background 

The author Sheryl Sandberg is currently the COO of Facebook. Prior she was the Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. Before Google, she served as chief of staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury.

When I learnt this about Sandberg, I admit to having a bit of a lady crush. Having worked in the IT industry for many years, it would be my dream to work for companies of the calibre of Google or Facebook.

Sandberg begins her book telling of being raised to believe that girls could do anything boys could do and that all career paths were open to her. I was lucky too, having had a similar upbringing. My brother was also taught that boys could (and should) do anything girls could do, except of course birth children - an equally important lesson.

Growing up, we both mowed the lawn, did the dishes, learnt to iron, laid bricks, dug holes, cleaned the bathroom and cooked. We were both afforded the same education and were never constricted in our dreams and goals.

Sadly, this is not the reality for all children. Some children are still brought up in the belief that women keep the house and look after the kids and the man earns the money.

About the book

Whilst reading this book so many things that Sandberg talks about rang true. I have worked in the male dominated IT industry for many years and have witnessed inequality and sexist behaviour towards women first hand.

Those damn gender stereotypes and inequalities

One of the main themes throughout Lean In, is that gender stereotypes and inequalities are still thriving to this day. A true but sad fact.

Sandberg admits to being surprised by this. During her university years, she believed the work that had been done to enforce equality had worked and when she emerged into the workforce men and women would be seen as equals.

However, this is still far from the truth, more men hold senior executive positions. And men still earn more than women for the same position. Clearly, more needs to be done to promote and support women in the workforce.

On the flip-side, it can also be said more women are stay-at-home-parents than men. Because this is still the expected norm.

We should be working towards equality for all. We should support men who want to be stay-at-home-parents and women who want to be senior executives. There should be no stigma attached to either.

We should all be sitting at the table

Sandberg talks about women who don't sit at the table, instead taking seats at the back, not expressing their views even when prompted. And when they do express them, they are talked over by the men in the room.

Sadly, I have seen this with my own eyes.

It disappoints me on so many levels; why aren't these intelligent women more confident? why are these men not willing to hear what these intelligent women have to say? They might learn something, I do!

She suggests that women should take more risks. Even if an opportunity arises that you think you aren't right for - you can learn! You learnt what you are doing right now so why can't you take a risk and learn something new.

A serious gender bias

Sandberg tells the story of Columbia Business School professor Frank Flynn and New York University professor Cameron Anderson, who ran an experiment to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace.

They started with a case study about a real-life entrepreneur named Heidi Roizen. Half the students were assigned Heidi's story and the other half were given the same story with just one difference - they changed the name "Heidi" to "Howard".

The students ranked both Heidi and Howard equally competent. Of course, they had the same educational and career achievements being the same person. 

However, the students believed Howard came across as a more appealing colleague. Heidi was seen as "selfish and not the type of person you would want to hire or work for". 

The same data with a single difference - gender - created a vastly different impression.

WOW, I couldn't quite believe the results of this experiment. Clearly, there was a gender bias. People still see successful women differently to successful men.

Due to these biases, women are still not promoting their successes or achievements. Something needs to be done. Once again, it is time to support both men and women in the decisions they make in their lives and careers.

Your equal partner 

Sandberg also gives advice on finding an equal partner. A person who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do their share at home. She believes these men do exist.

I also believe these men exist. As bias as I may be, I believe I am married to one. I will definitely be raising one. Parents across the globe need  to teach their children, both sons and daughters, that equality is important and they can strive to be anything they want.

Women supporting women

There is  mention in Lean In about women not supporting other women. Sadly, this is not news. Women need to start supporting each other and recognising the intelligence, beauty and success of each other. Equality has to start with us.

My favourite quote

“Today, despite all of the gains we have made, neither men nor women have real choice. Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don't have real choice. And until men are fully respected for contributing inside the home, they don't have real choice either.”... Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In.

Back to my friend

Just in case you were wondering, my friend did Lean In and received an increase to her pay that was a better representation of her new position.

Have you read Lean In? What are your thoughts?
or what are your thoughts on equality?

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