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Why Always Women? Lean In: A Book Review

Post by Karmistha Bhimwal

Introduction

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and a self-avowed feminist launched her first book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead in 2013.

The book deals with women who are present in workplaces. It encourages women on how to pursue their ambition, become leaders of today along with balancing work and life. It sheds light on why women find less success in workplaces compared to men. She combines social experiments, anecdotes and her personal experiences to outline gender politics in workplaces.

This book received good reviews and much criticism. Few called Sandberg a ‘faux feminist’ and others argued that women are turned into objects in the book, not focusing on solidarity and systematic gender bias.


Why Women Hesitate to Join the Workforce

According to an article written in Forbes, the #TheMetoo movement is the reason why women hesitate to join leadership positions. It's something that constantly bothers them. It stretches from the waitresses who are working for a tip to migrant workers; a quarter of women who are working report sexual harassment cases or assaults. 75% of women who stand up for themselves and report are penalized for doing so. The root problem is not promotions but is depreciation as women don’t get promoted enough in comparison to men. Women leave their position at a higher rate more often than men.




The other reason is that most women are mothers who occupy most of the female workforce. About (75% of mothers work overtime, that’s a solid 33 million out of

the 74.6 million-strong working women, and women are the sole or primary breadwinner for 40% of households with children, according to the US Department of Labour. The gap in salary is also one reason why it forces women to give up their job. Often salary is determined by what you used to get in the previous jobs which “describes your worth”. This articulates that people who have the same job have a different salary. In this case, women are at a disadvantage due to the motherhood penalty. So why should one stick around when you don’t get valued?


The Link between the Article and the Book

The link between the article and book is that even though the book encourages women to succeed in their careers, in reality, it's not as easy as it seems especially when you're parenting. Due to this people gave reviews such as Sandberg ‘is sensitive to how difficult it can be to raise children while working hard and she writes about that subject with sophistication and thoughtful reflection on her first-hand experience.


Becoming and Lean In- The Connection


Another book similar to Lean In, is ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama (2018) . The similarities between the two books are that both are based on popular personalities in the world and their experiences about reaching heights in their career with many obstacles in their way. In this memoir, Michelle Obama talks about her struggle being a black in America and how her family was afraid because “it is hard to think that the country once who oppressed you could one day be led by you.” Which shows her fear of the workplace, due to racism occurring in America. She mentioned that she wasn’t confident enough to serve as the First Lady. Also, she was the first African-American to serve in such a role. Michelle created history in the White House by establishing herself as a strong promoter for girls and women in America and around the globe, helping families pursue a better lifestyle. She stood shoulder to shoulder with her husband through tough times. She narrates the experiences that have moulded her from her childhood to the time spent in the White House to balancing motherhood and going through a tragedy of her miscarriage earlier. In her book, Michelle talks about how after becoming a mother her life changed but nothing changed for her husband. She sensed that she would have to sacrifice more than him. This not only shows her struggle in a workplace but overall challenges as a woman.

Sandberg mentioned in the first few chapters of her book that the target audience is specifically white working women in America. However, Becoming was a book dedicated to all the women and people. This was a major drawback of Sandberg’s book that it was for a set of people. On the other hand, both books give hope to people and encourage the celebration of womanhood. The social experiments and anecdotes in Sandberg’s book give the readers a big picture of the situation. Whereas, Obama’s book is more inspiring as it’s an autobiography that gives hope to women. The irony of Michelle being black and ruling America was an inspiration for all. Though the content of their books was slightly different from each other, both have a similar aim, success and empowerment of women.


Conclusion

Lean In is a book that should be recommended to both men and women. Sandberg uses data and facts to put reality into an opinion. The arguments made in her book are mostly based on her personal experiences in her workplace. Women in their life face many challenges when it comes to professionalism, Sandberg has given suggestions in her books as to why this happens.

In her book, there was a controversial part where she states that women are the reason for their failures. This might feel punitive but she points out if you don’t change the way you look at yourself, then how will you think differently. She also points out that it’s not always about having a plan but to keep moving forward. She suggests that women must ask their partners to contribute to half of the parenting work so that it’s not only women who are ‘inclined’ towards nurturing. This book consists of a lot of research about how sexism still exists in the workplace. Another good point about this book is that Sandberg admits her self-doubt and flaws that intrigue the readers to know more about one of the most successful women in the world.


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