After reading Lean In almost a month ago! I am writing an opinion piece on this amazing book by Sheryl Sandberg. This is my first time writing such a piece so bear with me. Before reading Lean-In, I read some of the book reviews and most were great reviews and some not so great. It seems some women of color could not really understand why Sandberg didn’t address women of color in the corporate world. Or maybe they were not satisfied with what she had to offer in that regard. Either way, Sandberg did not claim to know or understand what it’s like for a woman of color to climb up the corporate ladder.Other reviews went further stating she didn’t give any specific advice for women of color. Before I forge ahead with my rant, I should tell you a little bit about this book from my perspective.
Sandberg wrote this book for all women currently in the workforce and women wanting to move forward in a male dominant work environment. Lean In was written to give you a broad understanding of the corporate world and how to move up beyond your wildest dream. Lean In is about what to expect in the corporate world and how to prepare for it at work and at home. Sandberg shares her personal experience as a top female executive working in a male dominant corporate world. Lean In is funny, enlightening, educating and truly capturing. Sandberg’s book encourages women to Lean In at the table. Lean In is not judgmental; it’s realistic and powerful for today’s women.
Having said all that, I want to state the two major criticisms this book has received are;
1 – It doesn’t speak to the poor women who do not have the opportunity to even be at the table, talk more of leaning in. These critics are basically saying there is no table and that most women cannot even afford to go to school or equip themselves well enough to reach that stage. Critics say Sandberg’s book did not take into account less fortunate women that are unable to obtain the level and quality of education she has gained over the years. They also claim that she cannot truly understand the struggle of women
2- Criticism mentioned in the introduction above, the issue of minority women been left out.
1- This book is not for people who didn’t graduate high school or have no post-secondary degree, this book was designed to help entry level or and advanced women that have started their careers. The book is titled “WOMEN, WORK and WILL TO LEAD” I believe it is very important for everyone to understand the ideas Sandberg is trying to convey and determine if you’re the right audience. It would be unrealistic for Sandberg to write something unfamiliar to her. She graduated from Harvard and ever since she’s found herself in various high level positions because she is valiant and diligent. I say good for her! I think it is important not to look at this book from a perspective of “have’s not” rather think of ways you can implement her advice in your current role. If I still worked at Tim Horton’s as front clerk, I can still imagine ways I can use this book to effectively advance myself in that position. I absorbed the advice and in turn will make it work in my current life situation. The bottom line? It is up to you to take Sandberg’s advice and apply them accordingly.
2- When I picked up Sandberg’s book I didn’t have much expectation; I just wanted to see what she had to say about her life. I was pleasantly surprised with Lean In, as a woman of color I was not expecting Sandberg to talk about minority women in the corporate world. However, Sandberg’s book did more than what I expected she acknowledged women of color in many areas when it needed to be addressed. How? She used a lot of research data and facts to compliment issues that face women of color in the corporate world. As a woman of color it’s very easy for people to dismiss our problems with “you’re too sensitive or that happens to everyone not just black people” but Sandberg used research data to validate those issues. For instance in chapter 1 when she talks about women having to give up work in order to raise a family, she indicates that the % of single mothers raising a child alone is significantly higher amongst minority group than any other group. Sandberg recognizes in several other chapters of the book the struggle for minority women is always higher than their counterpart.
I recently discovered Ella L.J. Edmonson Bell who is very popular worldwide for recruiting women of color into the business world. You can Google bells full name to see what she has to offer or pick up her book “Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity.” Bell is an Associate Professor of Business Administration with a background in leadership development, especially for women and minorities. I am yet to read her book and when I do, you can expect a similar review.
I love that Sandberg used facts and research data to establish that these issues you seldom hear about minority women are not just stories but real issues that we need to work towards. Anything more than what she has offered would have been hypocritical and frankly insulting to minority women. We need to stop finding excuses not to be as successful as Sandberg or Bill Gate or the next rich person but rather explore what we have, to achieve our own success story.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a book on how to be black and successful then Sandberg’s book is not what you’re looking for but if you’re looking for a book on how to be a successful woman then go ahead pick it up, you won’t regret it. I identify as a woman first, the color of my skin is secondary to who I am and I think most women of color need to realize that in 2014 the US president is a black male and not female. Black men are moving up the corporate ladder but not black women, it seems to me the common denominator is being a woman. So as a woman, I take Sandberg’s advice as motivation to start my journey to the top and I know that my skin color will not determine where I go in life.
If you’ve read Lean In, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? If you haven’t, what advice or speech would you give yourself today to motivate you to achieve you biggest goals?