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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - Sheryl Sandberg Progressives and women who want to work will love this book; women who want to raise their own children will question its purpose and usefulness. Since only those who generally agree with the premise will probably read the book, I suspect it will garner higher ratings than it deserves. However, it certainly shines a light on a dilemma many women face today which is balancing motherhood and career.
Some of her advice is excellent: approach employees in a communal way, as in using the term we, so it is a shared experience; be careful how you communicate so there is no opportunity for misunderstandings, negotiate for the best deal for yourself as men do, present ideas in a positive way and always admit mistakes. She has built in a defense for criticism of her advice for women to take charge; she will attribute that to the stereotypical assessment of strong women as being arrogant while men are not defined in that way. Yet, I worked for men and women and I did not like working for women, not because of any stereotype, but because they did seem to think they had to act like men. They overdid it and it actually were nasty and rude, as a byproduct.
The book is well written in a conversational style which lent itself to the audio version I heard and the reader did an admirable job using just the right amount of expression. The content is not rocket science, more like common sense. It probably could as easily have been a list of behavioral rules for the workplace instead of a novel.
It is filled with anecdotes and platitudes about the plight of working women. This highly successful executive presents a philosophy for women in the work place and for men in the home. It is based on her opinions and her experiences, rather than actual facts. She complains of the small number of women in high positions but does not compare the size of the pool of qualified working women to that of qualified working men, so the numbers she supplied seemed skewed to me.
Although she professes to want equality for women in the workplace, she may actually want more. She does not address the fact that men and women are actually very different, intellectually, emotionally and physically. She simply wants equality without defining its limitations. We all can’t be CEO’s. Not all of us are bright enough or skilled enough. She wants certain rights for women, pregnant parking spots, flex time, etc., but as we push the envelope in one direction, it always seems to grow in another until there are abuses and the side that wanted equality now wants to be more equal than the others.
Sandberg really wrote a rule book that will fly in the face of conservative, more traditional women’s values. They do not want the same equality she desires. For them, the choice is really not whether a man or woman chooses to be home with the children and share the responsibility of home and hearth equally, it is about who raises that child, gives it the foundation, provides the code of ethics and instills a belief in some sort of faith, offering guidance so that child will grow into a responsible adult, since often, in choosing a career, the choice is not for the parent to provide these values but for a hired outsider. The author’s seems to suggest doing whatever makes you happy is the way to go, regardless of how it affects the children in the home, because for them, she feels you can hire adequate supervisors. In her opinion, you can choose to stay at home, work at home or work outside the home so long as you can find responsible replacements for yourself. For many women, that philosophy will simply not fly.
Although she believes you can be a good mother and still work full time, if we divide the day into waking hours, then who is spending more time with the child, the caregiver or the parent? In that case, is the birth mother really doing the mothering? This is the dilemma, the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to address in the interest of self-interest, in the interest of being absolutely politically correct. In the end, the changing landscape of gender and the blurring of the boundaries may make this book obsolete. How will we soon be defining child rearing, motherhood and/or fatherhood? Her book raised those questions for me more than the questions about the feminist movement and its success or failure, achievements or lack thereof. There are many groups that want equality in the workplace.
She refers to herself as the mother, but how many hours a day does she spend with the child, how many at work? That is the determining factor for me. Are you not the caregiver and is the caregiver not really the mother? We may soon have to redefine the term mother as we redefine the term marriage. If it is the caregiver who is responsible for providing the foundation for the children while the mother and father merely show up for a meal, should we change the meaning of the terms?
She says a compelling job makes it worthwhile to work outside the home, but what about a compelling child? She sees nothing wrong with a husband and wife raising children, working full time, living in different places. She ignores the fact that the stable ingredient is no longer either parent, but it is the caregiver, the nanny, the cook, the chauffeur, etc. The part-time parent simply slips in and out of the child’s life to share a “happy” moment with them, what they would call “quality” time. She addresses the cost of child care but not the cost, at some later date, of passing off that child’s care to someone else.
She espouses political correctness and the selfishness of today’s me oriented society. If you want it, you therefore deserve it, so go out and get it; it is kind of an odd take on “I think, therefore I am”. I listened to this book in one day and it alternately cheered me and depressed me. On the one hand, yes, it would be nice to be able to do whatever one wants with one’s life, to have it all and the devil with the side effects, but on the other, what will happen to this generation of children who are raised by strangers without the values of their parents?
Sandberg is really smart; she went to Harvard, but from there on in, she met the right people and they helped her on her way to success. She did not do it alone. Without those well known names to mentor her, she might not have achieved such a level of authority. She was in the right time and the right place. Her advice is a kind of common sense that is combined with liberal speak. Today, she might not realize such a level of success. Big government has changed the playing field for new start up businesses and women are no longer oddities in the workplace. The quotas have started to fill up leaving less available, exceptional opportunities.
Sandberg is completely immersed in Progressive policies, philosophies and behavior and has spent her professional life interacting largely with only those people who echo each other’s liberal beliefs. Her book is a reflection of that experience.