Synopses & Reviews
Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In,
Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.
Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.
In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.
Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.
“Sheryl provides practical suggestions for managing and overcoming the challenges that arise on the ‘jungle gym’ of career advancement. I nodded my head in agreement and laughed out loud as I read these pages. Lean In is a superb, witty, candid, and meaningful read for women (and men) of all generations.” Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state
“Sheryl Sandberg has done a tremendous service with this work. It offers a vital and sharp message, for women and men. We need great leaders in key seats spread throughout all sectors of society, and we simply cannot afford to lose 50 percent of the smartest, most capable people from competing for those seats. Provocative, practical, and inspired!” Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
“To tackle society’s most pressing problems we need to unleash the leadership of both women and men. Lean In shows us the path and is an absolutely invaluable resource for the next generation of leaders and those who support them.” Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO, Teach for America
“For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. She has a remarkable intelligence that can cut through complex processes and find solutions to the hardest problems. Lean In combines Sheryl’s ability to synthesize information with her understanding of how to get the best out of people. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers — especially men — to become better and more effective leaders.” Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Facebook
“Sheryl is a unique business leader because of her versatility and breadth. She has the two traits that are common in every successful leader I have known: curiosity and determination. Sheryl brings all of her insight to Lean In, an important new book that companies can use to get the most out of their talent. With her ideas and actions, Sheryl will help to define leadership in the years to come.” Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric
“The key to opening some of life’s most difficult doors is already in our hands. Sheryl’s book reminds us that we can reach within ourselves to achieve greatness.” Alicia Keys
“If you loved Sheryl Sandberg’s incredible TEDTalk on why we have too few women leaders, or simply believe as I do that we need equality in the boardroom, then this book is for you. As Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has firsthand experience of why having more women in leadership roles is good for business as well as society. Lean In is essential reading for anyone interested in righting the injustice of this inequality.” Sir Richard Branson, chairman, the Virgin Group
“Lean In poses a set of ambitious challenges to women: to create the lives we want, to be leaders in our work, to be partners in our homes, and to be champions of other women. Sheryl provides pragmatic advice on how women in the twenty-first century can meet these challenges. I hope women — and men — of my generation will read this book to help us build the lives we want to lead and the world we want to live in.” Chelsea Clinton
Sheryl Sandberg — Facebook COO, ranked eighth on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business — has become one of America's most galvanizing leaders, and an icon for millions of women juggling work and family. In her Lean In
, she urges women to take risks and seek new challenges, to find work that they love, and to remain passionately engaged with it at the highest levels throughout their lives.
Lean In — Sheryl Sandberg's provocative, inspiring book about women and power — grew out of an electrifying TED talk Sandberg gave in 2010, in which she expressed her concern that progress for women in achieving major leadership positions had stalled. The talk became a phenomenon and has since been viewed nearly two million times. In Lean In, she fuses humorous personal anecdotes, singular lessons on confidence and leadership, and practical advice for women based on research, data, her own experiences, and the experiences of other women of all ages. Sandberg has an uncanny gift for cutting through layers of ambiguity that surround working women, and in Lean In she grapples, piercingly, with the great questions of modern life. Her message to women is overwhelmingly positive. She is a trailblazing model for the ideas she so passionately espouses, and she's on the pulse of a topic that has never been more relevant.
About the Author
Sheryl Sandberg is Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. Prior to Facebook, Sandberg was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, where she built and managed the online sales channels for advertising and publishing and operations for consumer products worldwide. She previously served as Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton and began her career as an economist with the World Bank. She received B.A. and M.B.A degrees from Harvard University. Sandberg also serves on the boards of Facebook, The Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, Center for Global Development, ONE, and V-Day.
Reading Group Guide
1. What does “lean in” mean? Why do you think women need to be urged to lean in?
2. The first three words in the book are “I got pregnant.” What does this signal about the kind of business book Lean In will be?
3. When Sandberg says, “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality” (p. 7), what does she mean? Have you found this statement to be accurate?
4. Why is “ambitious” often considered a derogatory word when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man?
5. In chapter 2, Sandberg discusses the impostor syndrome: feeling like a fraud, fearing discovery with each success. Why do women feel this way more often than men do? What causes the gender gap?
6. Sandberg’s recommendation for overcoming self-doubt is to fake confidence until you feel it. Have you ever tried this? What was the result?
7. What did you learn from the anecdote on page 36, about keeping your hand up?
8. Why did Sandberg respond so negatively to being named the fifth most powerful woman in the world?
9. When negotiating, Sandberg tells women to use the word “we” rather than “I.” Why does the choice of pronoun make such a difference?
10. On page 48, Sandberg says, “I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations.” How do you feel about her advice?
11. What’s your take on Sandberg’s suggestion that we think of the path to success as a jungle gym rather than a ladder?
12. Throughout the book, Sandberg talks about how frequently women are reluctant to take risks. What can they do to change that?
13. In chapter 5, Sandberg argues against seeking out a mentor, suggesting that once you excel, you’ll attract an appropriate mentor. How has mentorship worked in your own experience?
14. “People who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others,” Sandberg says on page 79. What does she mean by this?
15. When considering employment after motherhood, Sandberg suggests that women shift the calculations and measure the current cost of child care against their salary ten years from now. Why is this a more effective perspective than just considering current costs? If you’re a parent, would this change your attitude toward employment and money?
16. In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of “having it all,” or even “doing it all,” and points to a poster on the wall at Facebook as a good motto: “Done is better than perfect.” (p. 125) What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find contentment?
17. Sandberg and her husband have different viewpoints about parenting: She worries about taking too much time away from their kids, while he’s proud of the time he does spend with them. Would it help women to adopt an attitude more like his?
18. In chapter 10, Sandberg discusses how the term “feminist” has taken on negative connotations. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?
19. Discuss this assertion: “Staying quiet and fitting in may have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path. But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead, we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women back, and find solutions” (pp. 146–47).
20. In the book’s final chapter, Sandberg talks about the need to work together to create equality—to allow women to thrive in the workplace, and to allow men to participate proudly in the home and child rearing. What steps can you take right now to begin to make this happen?