Patricia's Blog

Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will To Lead {Book Review}

This book is a must read for all women. Regardless of whether you agree with Sheryl’s analysis or disagree, it is a fascinating look at women in the workplace and gender equality today. Sheryl looks at whether women are equally represented in areas such as politics, board seats, and executive seats. I had assumed, like many others I’m sure, that women have continued to progress in our goal for equality. The statistics Sheryl has quoted do not support that claim. It was disheartening to learn that as of 2010, women were still only making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

In her book, Sheryl examines where we are in the workplace today, where we have come from, where we still need to go to achieve full equality and why this is important. She also examines why our work towards equality has stalled. A major factor for this is our desire to balance work and families. For many women, the idea of having it all no longer exists so we must choose a path. Women are considered to be nurturers and care givers and are seen as the best person to be the main child care provider. As a result, we stay with the more entry level positions and often avoid going after promotions to stay available for our children…or the children we plan to have.

I particularly enjoyed reading the stories and comments that Sheryl has quoted in the book from other successful women regarding their journeys towards success and the obstacles that they have faced. It is amazing how often a successful woman has to face the question of how she balances work and children, while a man never has to answer that same question. I also found it interesting how society wants women to be nice and likeable. As a result, women are held to a different set of standards. A woman who exhibits the exact same traits as a man in business is considered difficult while a man is considered successful.

What I took away from the book was not that Sheryl has all the answers to the problem of gender equality, but the importance of looking at the situation with fresh eyes and seeing what opportunities are out there. Most importantly, I walked away from the book understanding the need for options for both women and men. Both sexes are stereotyped, men must be providers and women look after the home. If women work to be leaders, they must deal with the negative backlash regarding work/home balance. Men also deal with the same negativity if they choose to stay home to raise their children. I was raised in a divorced family and lived full time for a number of years with my single father. I personally believe that if you are happy and fulfilled and doing your best for your children, then your children will be happy. So what if more men stepped up and took on their share or more of the child rearing so a woman has more options for her life so she too may reach her full potential? What would happen if companies and government accommodated working parents with more flex time and daycare? What would our lives look like if we could get rid of the stereo types of what we should be doing based on our gender, and instead lived our lives doing what we want based on what makes us happy and fulfilled (if possible with your situation), regardless if that is being a CEO or a stay at home parent?

Why is all of this important? Because right now the world is only using 50% of its potential. Just imagine what we could achieve in this world if we used our full potential.