Lean In [Book Review]

Posted by in Books & Films

I have made a commitment with my 2019 plan to read 12 books. I failed at the same commitment last year, reading nine out of 12, so, it was important that I tackled things heads on this year, starting with Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

This read was long overdue. I have been a member of not one but two Lean In Circles for over a year now and I often had to (somewhat shamefully) confess: “Didn’t read the book just yet.” Well, mission accomplished.

Now, if I find Sheryl Sandberg’s cause very important, I can’t really say I resonated with the book.

Lean In, or what it means to be a woman

The thing, I guess, that keeps me from being entirely on board with the book: I don’t recognize myself in the women Sheryl Sandberg describes. I don’t work for “the man”, I don’t have children, I never felt like I couldn’t speak my mind or sit at the table in a meeting.

I’m part of the lucky ones you could say. I’m not really sure what that means or if I’m luckier than my neighbor. It’s simply the way things are. So I decided to read the book with a more anthropological mindset, trying to understand what happens to other women in the workforce.

And there are interesting learnings to gather. Studies to explore and personal stories to discover. I particularly liked the story about Meg Whitman working through her pregnancy (although yet, another pregnancy story). But okay, I’m a sucker for portraits of strong people, male or female, that refuse to simply play by the rules when the rules are not working for them.

I was also very interested to read Sandberg’s view on the definition of being a feminist. That’s probably the only chapter in the book that spoke directly to me. I have felt (and I’m still feeling) the same resistance with the F-word. I have very feminist close friends, and I’m in awe with their commitment to their cause. But I’m still wary to the idea of forcing women “against men” (as in trying to reach a certain percentage of female representation in a company board for exemple) and believe that the absence of gender-bias and the focus on merit is probably a better way to handle most situation.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

– Sheryl Sandberg

That’s the future I’m hoping for. And my fight to show that this future is much closer than we’d think is in my daily life and in my choice. The choice not to fit the family model. The choice to free myself from conventions. The choice to work how I want, where I want, with the people that I want. The choice to call myself a “leader” and never a “female leader”.

Photo by Lacie Slezak