The book every woman (and man) should read this summer

dminty@ledger-enquirer.comJune 26, 2013 

Read Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean in" and then encourage your girlfriends, your coworkers and your husband to read it, too.

Yes, your husband. The Facebook Chief Operating Officer's book isn't a man-hating feminist manifesto. Nor is it a self-indulgent memoir by the Harvard educated woman from a well-connected family.

Sandberg's book ignites conversations about why so few women reach the top rung of their industry's corporate ladder (just 14 percent hold executive officer positions) and why a woman is still paid less than (77 cents per dollar) her male counterpart.

What it doesn't do is blame men, or at least it doesn't blame only men.

Sandberg holds women -- herself included -- responsible for being afraid and compromising to make room for partners and children before they even exist.

"We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in," she writes.

Promotions, salary and choices

Sandberg cites a 2011 study that found men were promoted based on potential while women where promoted based on accomplishments.

An internal Hewlett-Packard report found that women were likely to apply for jobs only if they thought they met 100 percent of that position's requirements while men applied if they thought they met only 60 percent of the criteria.

"Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself -- traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting," Sandberg writes.

Stereotypes and negative labels such as "bossy" and "demanding" can haunt women from childhood to adulthood and a desire to be "liked" often discourages women from negotiating higher salaries.

She bases her points of view and advice on research, personal experiences and -- often humorous -- anecdotes from friends and colleagues.

A chapter titled "Sit at the Table" encourages women to be more active participants in meetings. Advice: Claim a chair that's at the meeting table instead of a chair that's off to the side.

Though Sandberg offers practical advice to women at the office, the book's messages also apply to women who work in the home.

She opposes "the mommy wars."

"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. Mothers who work outside the home should regard mothers who work inside the home as real workers. And mothers who work inside the home should be equally respectful of those choosing another option," she writes.

A challenge

Sandberg wants readers to ask themselves "What would I do if I weren't afraid?" And then do it.

"Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter," she writes.

Women will likely enjoy Sandberg's advice on choosing the right spouse -- one who will share childcare responsibilities and housework.

She's also quick to defend a man's choice to devote his full-time work to raising the children.

"The gender wars need an immediate and lasting peace. True equality will be achieved only when we all fight the stereotypes that hold us back. Feeling threatened by others' choices pulls us all down."

She believes if children see more dads at school pickups and moms at the office then girls and boys will see more options for their futures.

She writes: "We owe it to the generations that came before us and the generations that will come after to keep fighting. I believe women can lead more in the workplace. I believe men can contribute more in the home. And I believe that will create a better world, one where half of our institutions are run by women and half our homes are run by men."

Check out the Lean In Community at www.facebook.com/leaninorg and visit leanin.org to read and share personal experiences and get tips.

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