What I Read on the Plane

I used to be a reader. 

But then I had kids. 

Which was followed by years and years of being tired. 

The narcoleptic kind of tired that doesn't allow you to be a reader. 

Because if you are ever blessed with opportunity to sit still,  
without all of your kids being drawn to you like a magnet,
simultaneously telling you every detail of their day, 
and asking a hundred and twenty-seven questions, 
your overworked eyes are too wasted to read. 

You find yourself attempting to read the same sentence, 
over and over and over again. 

Until your eyes physically cannot stay open. 

So you give up. 

And toss your book on top of the pile on your nightstand. 

The burgeoning pile that reminds you that you used to be a reader. 

There is a rare break from this madness. 

I enjoyed one last week. 

And this is what I read: 

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook. Before that, she was the Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. Before that she served as the Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department. 

In 2007, she was ranked number 29 on Fortune Magazine's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business". She was the youngest woman on the list. Since then, she has been included on every other list imaginable: The Wall Street Journal's "Women to Watch", Business Week's "25 Most Influential People on the Web", Forbes' "World's 100 Most Powerful Women",  and Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World". 

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead was released on March 11, 2013. The book has sold more than one million copies and has been on top of the bestseller lists since its launch. 

So you should probably read it. Even if you aren't a woman. Because there's a decent chance you are married to a woman, work with a woman, or have a daughter who is a woman. 

For those of you who are too tired to be readers, I will include some highlights. 

Sheesh. . . I even loved the dedication: 

"Opportunities are rarely offered; they're seized."

"Given how fast the world moves today, grabbing opportunities is more important than ever. . . Opportunities are not well defined but, instead, come from someone jumping in to do something. That something becomes his job."

"You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have."

"If we want a world with greater equality, we need to acknowledge that women are less likely to keep their hand up. We need institutions and individuals to notice and correct for this behavior by encouraging, promoting, and championing more women. And women have to learn to keep their hands up because when they lower them, even managers with the best intentions might not notice."

"Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less. This truth is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking because no one would ever admit to stereotyping on the basis of gender and unsurprising because clearly we do."

"When you want to change things, you can't please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren't making enough progress."

 "An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they meet 60 percent of the requirements. This difference has a huge ripple effect. Women need to shift from thinking 'I'm not ready to do that' to thinking 'I want to do that--and I'll learn by doing it.'"

"Emotion drives both men and women and influences every decision we make. Recognizing the role emotions play and being willing to discuss them makes us better managers, partners, and peers."

"Of all the ways women hold themselves back, perhaps the most pervasive is that they leave before they leave."

"The birth of a child instantly changes how we define ourselves. . . Our priorities shift in fundamental ways. Parenting may be the most rewarding experience, but is is also the hardest and most humbling."

"When husbands work fifty or more hours per week, wives with children are 44 percent more likely to quit their jobs than wives with children whose husbands work less."

"As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home."

"Anyone who wants her mate to be a true partner must treat him as an equal--and equally capable--partner."

"When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. When women work outside the home and share breadwinning duties, couples are more likely to stay together. In fact, the risk of divorce reduces by about half when a wife earns half the income and a husband does half the housework."

"Instead of pondering the question 'Can we have it all?' we should be asking the more practical question 'Can we do it all?' And again, the answer is no."

"I had to decide what mattered and what didn't and I learned to be a perfectionist in only the things that mattered."

"Anyone who brings up gender in the workplace is wading into deep and muddy waters. The subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated the same."

"All of us, myself included, are biased, whether we admit it or not. And thinking that we are objective can actually make this worse, creating what social scientists call a 'bias blind spot'".

"Social gains are never handed out. They must be seized. "

"Equal opportunity is not equal unless everyone receives the encouragement that makes seizing those opportunities possible."

"None of this is attainable unless we pursue these goals together."

"Stay-at-home mothers can make me feel guilty and, at times, intimidate me. There are moments when I feel like they are judging me, and I imagine there are moments when they feel like I am judging them. But when I push past my own feelings of guilt and insecurity, I feel grateful."

"We all want the same thing: to feel comfortable with our choices and to feel validated by those around us. So let's start by validating one another."

"We need to be grateful for what we have but dissatisfied with the status quo."


Jaynee said...

Wow! This really had an impact on you. I'm so glad. Want to join my the Lean In circle???

emily ballard said...

Shoot! And I totally forgot to give you credit for bringing me the book...Thanks, Jaynee!

Rebecca said...

Very interesting. I saw an interview awhile ago with Erin Callan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers whhttp://shine.yahoo.com/work-money/former-cfo-erin-callan-regrets-not-having-children--reignites-work-life-balance-debate-194956243.htmlo is voicing a somewhat opposing opinion

Rebecca said...

I hate your word verification btw...anyway, it is interesting to think about. I have found that I personally am happiest when I am working part time and have a lot of control over my schedule.

Rebecca said...

Making comments via my phone is also super annoying...anyway, I feel like many women go down certain career paths because they think it will be great, but they haven't really thought it through super well.

I'm not sure why, but I have never felt limited by my own potential and having had the big corporate job with the big paycheck traveling around, I know I'm over that.

Rebecca said...

For me, considering what kind of lifestyle and day-to-day routine I want helps me make choices that take me down the paths that help me get to where I want to be. I suppose I have learned what I want because I have worked a lot and tried different things and I just hope women who are wanting to Lean In, are being very deliberate in choosing what will actually bring them fulfillment... Blah blah blah

Natalie B. said...

I have only skimmed the book, but wasn't a huge fan because it seemed to me like she skews a lot of the statistics AND she seems to be coming from an assumption that women want this equality all the time. i guess I am cocky, I think I can do everything....but I just don't want to! Okay, more thoughts later....I have to run. Should go read more so have something more intelligent to share.

emily ballard said...

I think you missed the point of the book. Have you read it, Rebecca? It's not a discussion of whether you should or should not work outside of the home and have a career. Sheryl Sandberg NEVER expresses any regret for having a family. Women do work. (We NEED them to work!) And we need them to develop leadership roles so they can help make work environments better for women. For mothers.

Rebecca said...

Emily, let me see if I can explain my opinion a little better... First of all, to be clear, I am all for women having more leadership roles and for working. My personal life should make that obvious since, as you know, I have had a job since the age of 14 with the exception of the 2 years I lived in Texas and during my divorce proceedings when I was forced out of the company I jointly owned. And as you often mention, I always get the best jobs. So from my experience of working all these years in great jobs that pay well and have lots of perks I can see that although Sandberg is sincere in her encouragement of women, the picture she is painting is painted with a brush that is paid for by Facebook. Follow the money and maybe you can see that from a different perspective, this book might not be as purely intentioned as it may seem. I think it's condescending and stereotyping women for her to say that women aren't as successful as they could be because they are holding themselves back. What?!!!! From where I sit that attitude encourages women to place the blame of their non-advancement on THEMSELVES rather than on looking at the actual problems that exist in corporate environments.

Let me borrow some words of others to help me articulate what I am trying to say...

"Here’s the thing about Lean In: Your reaction to the book depends, in no small part, on whether you think a hard-charging life filled with work is a worthwhile goal. If you have little interest in the boardroom, this is not the manifesto you were searching for. And if you’re outright suspicious of corporate America’s seemingly endless demands for more work on less pay, Lean In is your new worst frenemy.....

"But Lean In–which this reporter enjoyed!–is tailored to suit-clad, fresh-faced Ivy League grads with their feet planted firmly on the path to the corner office. If you’re looking to carve out any other kind of life–whether it’s as a family-focused homemaker or as a singleton in search of actual work-life balance, then all Ms. Sandberg has to say is good luck and God bless." (source: http://betabeat.com/2013/03/former-zuckerberg-speechwriter-kate-losse-lean-in-sheryl-sandber/)

From my personal experience, the high powered, high paying corporate jobs ring empty to many once they get there.

From Kate Losse, who worked with Sandberg at Facebook and who experienced gender discrimination under her leadership:
"Lean In’s goal is to push women forward into their work so as to overcome what Sandberg represents as women’s universal internal resistance to career velocity...Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.If resistance to working harder is the problem, then it follows that work, in Sandberg’s book, is a solution. Work will save us; but, the reader may be asking, from what? By taking note of the forms of human activity that do not appear in Lean In, we see that what work will save us from is not-work: pleasure and other nonproductive pastimes. “Framing the issue as work-life balance—as if the two were diametrically opposed—almost ensures that work will lose out,” Sandberg writes. In response to the threat of work losing out, she goes on to outline how one transforms one’s life entirely into work. There is no not-work, or pleasure, in Lean In... Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more successful worker?...

Rebecca said...

"Now, with Sandberg’s Lean In, we have a book that tells the story that she and Facebook want to tell about sexism: women can solve it themselves by working harder. This story works in the first instance to supplant a more structural feminist critique of the workplace, but beyond that it promotes Facebook as a cutting-edge work environment where men and women are encouraged to work “harder better faster stronger” in support of the company’s domination and success...

"The fact that Lean In is really waging a battle for work and against unmonetized life is the reason pregnancy, or the state of reproducing life, looms as the corporate Battle of Normandy in Lean In. Pregnancy, by virtue of the body’s physical focus on human reproduction, is humanity’s last, biological stand against the corporate demand for workers’ continuous labor. For Sandberg, pregnancy must be converted into a corporate opportunity: a moment to convince a woman to commit further to her job. Human life as a competitor to work is the threat here, and it must be captured for corporate use, much in the way that Facebook treats users’ personal activities as a series of opportunities to fill out the Facebook-owned social graph.

By arguing that women should express their feminism by remaining in the workplace at all costs, Sandberg encourages women to maintain a commitment to the workplace without encouraging the workplace to maintain a commitment to them. And by launching a feminist platform, Sandberg is able to contain the broader threat that a feminist critique poses to Facebook’s business, simultaneously generating more power for herself and her organization — Silicon Valley “revolution” at its finest. This maneuver, as I learned in my years at Facebook, is how the game is played, and both Sandberg and Zuckerberg play it well. The question the rest of us have to ask is, what does the game do for those not at or near the top? Are workers playing or are we getting played?....

"I decided to leave Facebook because I saw ahead of me, by Zuckerberg’s and Sandberg’s own hands, an unending race of pure ambition, where no amount of money or power is enough and work is forever. While I am not unambitious, this wasn’t my ambition. But Sandberg is betting that for some women, as for herself, the pursuit of corporate power is desirable, and that many women will ramp up their labor ever further in hopes that one day they, too, will be “in.” And whether or not those women make it, the companies they work for will profit by their unceasing labor.

For all of its sincere encouragement of individual women, Sandberg’s book does not indicate that her leadership has created deep changes at Facebook, or how deep changes might occur at the companies that she hopes women will run. Since, like any boss, she focuses on pushing women to work harder, it’s hard to see why she would use her position to effect systemic change.

"And so, in the end, Lean In may be a book not about a social movement, but about Sandberg’s own movement from Harvard to Google to Facebook, and now into her self-appointed role as leader of Lean In. The book advocates “lean in” circles for women in corporate environments. The circles are now being advocated by the book’s corporate partners like American Express, Amazon, and Bain, with her book as their guide. As memoir, it is instructive regarding Sandberg’s successful career trajectory, and provides some helpful advice for young women in how to follow her. But as a manual for navigating the workplace, it teaches women more about how to serve their companies than it teaches companies about how to be fairer places for women to work."
(source: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/feminisms-tipping-point-who-wins-from-leaning-in)

I don't think that Sandbergs goals and ambitions are really what most women want so although she has some good encouragement, I know her roadmap is not the one for me.

Jaynee said...

It's always fascinating to me when someone doesn't read a book, but has a strong opinion about its contents. Further, defending that opinion by using the words of others borderlines on ignorance. I'm not sure what the phrase feeling "limited by potential" even means and how that is part of the conversation about Lean In, but the book does not teach women, in any way, to view themselves as victims. It does point out some pretty major differences between the way men and women operate in life and in the workforce. I am sure there are women out there that absolutely cannot relate to this book. Maybe they've never experienced tokenism, maybe they've always felt empowered. Maybe they've always had support from women in their lives, or always have supported other women. Maybe their career has been full of leaders who are ahead of their time. Which would be an awesome thing to see and MORE POWER TO THEM. Because when we can get to that point, we won't have to have a book to argue about. And my daughters will benefit from that culture. Or, maybe those people should write a book about how to have so much confidence all of the time. I have read Lean In, and recently attended a conference with the Lean In Foundation's founder. The women in attendance at that conference came from all walks of life. Some were high-powered corporate professionals, who yea... wanted the corner suite. Some were low-level employees who were struggling through work-life harmony. Some were part-timers who just want some inspiration and a different way to go about determining what they want out of life. This book spoke to all of them... in different ways. I encourage every woman to read the book. And then encourage their husband or son or father or, hey... even their boss... read the book. It has made a HUGE difference in my life. It may not work for everyone, and if not, that's fine. But to not read the book, but easily dismiss the work or to criticize those who HAVE read it as not being informed is irresponsible. And highly offensive. I would have much more respect for someone who voiced their opinion on the merits of the book had they read it, understood what it was about and then outlined clearly why they opposed the ideas in the book. I may still completely disagree with you, but at that point, to each their own... as long as each has READ. THE. BOOK.

@udj said...

I am curious about your opinion on this book in relation to the role for motherhood that the church proclaims.

Where are my Mary Jane's? said...

Wow. This is quite the discussion. I obviously need to read the book and I appreciate your review! I'm also interested in her "statistic" or opinion (not sure which) that marriages are more successful or couples are more likely to stay together when the husband does half the housework and the wife brings in half the income. That would be interesting to look into more. Good book suggestion. Thanks again for sharing!

Rebecca said...


I don't know you at all, so I'm not exactly sure how to take your comments, but I can assure you that it was never my intent to offend anyone.

While it is true that I have not read the entire book, I have read enough of it to form an opinion on it and I am not bordering on ignorance as you suggest, and I don't believe that my comments were irresponsible, rather I was having a hard time finding the right words to articulate how I felt and was trying to explain my opinion better.

I have continued this discussion on my personal facebook page and have learned a lot from my friends who have joined the discussion. I am so grateful for the perspectives they have shared and I in no way want to make anyone feel like their opinions and viewpoints are not valid. I think that this is such an important topic and that we can all learn from each other what works for each person and family. Everyone has such a unique situation in life, there is definitely not a one-size-fits-all answer. I enjoy a spirited conversation and my comments were intended to share what my personal experience and opinions are and to engage a conversation, not to attack anyone.

Since not everyone reading this post is one of my facebook friends here are some great comments from some of my friends who commented on this topic:

"The conversation I would like to see happen is how we can make the workplace more family friendly and flexible for both moms and dads so it is not such and either/or decision... " -Corporate Attorney and mother

"I have always liked Sandberg. I watched her TED lecture a few years ago where she encouraged women to always take a seat at the table. At the time, I was hesitant to sit at crowded boardroom tables and assumed that I had less to bring to the table than more experienced lawyers, but ever since hearing her, I always sit at the table at meetings and I find that it makes me feel more empowered to engage and add value." -Corporate Attorney and mother

"What I do know – is that working outside the home or not, being a mom is hard work. And I will always choose to support a mother & her family as best as I can, without judging her for whether or not she has a career." Fortune 10 Company and mother

"I have not read the book yet. My own view is that the path we take in life is so individualized, and I really try to prayerfully seek divine guidance and consult with my husband and do what we feel is best for our family at any given time, and that can change over time. So, I applaud those who seek to use their God-given talents in ways that promote good causes, and I hope everyone strives to do what God wants them to do with their one and only magnificent life!" -attorney who clerked for Supreme Court Justices Twice, General Council for the Beckett Fund

"I am glad to represent the Stanford/Harvard/mom perspective, lol. I liked the book a lot. I actually started a lean-in circle of first year female faculty at Stanford and we meet monthly and encourage each other to sit at the table, put our hands up, etc. I don't have any experience with Sheryl Sandberg, but I thought the research she summarized in her book was solid. I also think more structural cultural etc supports for women are warranted." -Stanford faculty

She also cited a great article with some great food for thought: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-generation-wants-back-in.html?_r=0

I hope that helps!