It was a Saturday afternoon in Joburg when the ladies and I met to review Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I was a bit nervous about how everyone had found the book becuase I had made the selection since the book club was starting out. Once we sat down on the boardroom table and started discussing the book I knew that it was the perfect book to kick off Inception Book Club.
The author of the book, Sheryl Sandberg, is the COO of Facebook and has been named as one of the most powerful women in business. I was first told about the book by a male friend of mine who suggested I read it because he knew I’d enjoy it. This was years after the book had been published so I was one of those people who read the book years after people had been raving about it. Once I started reading the book it just spoke to me because it speaks about the lack of female leaders globally, the challenges facing women to reach leadership positions and then Sheryl Sandberg gives advice on overcoming some of these challenges faced by women based on her experiences. Because this is based on her experiences one can’t apply all her advice because everyone’s situation is different, but it’s definitely worth the read. Amongst the sections that stood out for me in the book were:
Sit at the table – In this section she speaks about how women often shy away from letting their voices be heard and how that can limit their careers because leaders who are chosen are often those who speak up. When we discussed this section we all felt so embarrassed because at some point many of us had played small to avoid being seen as bossy or attention seeking but this definitely opened up our eyes. In the book she does mention that women who are assertive are often seen as being too aggressive, think of the number of girls who are disliked or called names for not being afraid to be assertive. As a result of this many women avoid sitting at the table and being heard as a way of avoiding being disliked. For me this allowed me to be more wary of playing small and not judging ladies who decide sit at the table.
It’s a Jungle gym, not a ladder – This was certainly my favorite section. In this section she suggests that one’s career should be looked at as a jungle gym rather than the ladder we so often aim for. She suggests that a jungle gym is better than a ladder because on a ladder there’s only one way to get to the top while a jungle gym allows for different avenues to get to the top. She shares examples of how sometimes your career needs be relooked at and if need be ,one may need to start a new job or even leave a better position to start at the bottom in a field where there are better prospects. As someone who has changed fields and has had to start from the bottom in a field where I wanted to grow, I found myself nodding because I could relate.
Make you partner a real partner – This section got us really talking, especially the married ladies. The section speaks about how important it is to make your partner a real partner when trying to grow in your career. Far too often women sacrifice their dreams of growing in their careers to rather focus on their families. Most times we see women making this sacrifice more than men. What the book suggests is that both men and women need to start splitting family and household responsibilities in order for women to prosper in their careers too. The married ladies said that they wished that reality was as straight forward as the book suggests, but many felt it was not. They expressed that women are often raised and socialized to be the nurturers and take care of the household, while men are raised to lead the home and this can be difficult to change. I have not experienced this but I'm all for what Sheryl is suggesting.
The book covers many other topics about: mentorship, speaking your truth, doing it all and equality. I would recommend this for any woman who wants to grow to become a leader in their career or business.