Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Over the past few months, the discussion of women in the workforce has taken centre stage with articles like “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Sandberg raises some compelling arguments about the importance of equality in the workplace (and at home) at a time when the gender gap, in pay and leadership ambition, is making headlines. While the “lean in” premise certainly has flaws (there are a few) and critics, there are some important takeaways for those in economic, workforce and community development roles.
Lean In itself is part a call to action on an important social issue and part a guide for individual women looking to…well, lean in…to their careers. Looking at both research and anecdotal experience, Sandberg explores both the larger social barriers to equality in the workforce as well as the internal barriers that prevent women from pursuing success and leadership in their chosen fields. It’s important to note here that Sandberg does not prescribe a cookie-cutter vision of success, acknowledging that each of us must define success according to our own standards. While the data and issues discussed are largely based in the American context, Canadian readers will still find this to be a worthwhile read, particularly given it could take Canada 228 years (yes, you read that right) to reach income equality if efforts to close the gap keep moving at the current pace.
As individuals, this book offers some interesting challenges and advice, whether you’re a woman trying to navigate the career jungle gym and balance your work with your home life, or a man trying to understand the challenges facing the women around him in the workplace. For managers and organizational leaders, including entrepreneurs, it’s a call to reflect on the ways we can encourage equality in our own organizations and benefit from it. For workforce and economic development professionals, this book offers a deep dive into some significant issues impacting the ability of businesses and communities to develop, attract(especially in industries with a skills gap) and retain talented women, making us more competitive and efficient. In fact, helping women to lean in could be good for the economy in the U.S. and around the world (see the U.K. and Japan for examples).
While it’s a long way from perfect as an argument or blueprint for true gender equality in the workforce, Lean In gets some things right and is shaping discussion around issues that impact us all. For that reason alone it’s well worth the read. Pick up a copy and be sure to check out Sandberg’s TED Talk on the topic. For more resources around Lean In,visit LeanIn.Org.