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I just finished reading Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, and I loved it! I know, I know, I am five(!) years late to the party. If I have any free time to “read for pleasure” I normally choose some fluff fiction book, either fantasy or romantic, the further from reality the better. I like to escape when I read and definitely not deal with real world problems.
I downloaded Lean In on my iPad way back in 2013, shortly after it was released, but it sat unread for years. I would notice it on my bookshelf occasionally when I opened my iBooks app, but then I’d choose some fiction novel instead.
One day recently I finished my latest fluff fiction novel and I didn’t have any new books in mind to read, so I decided to see if I had any unread books in my iBooks library. Sure enough I found Lean In sitting unread on the bookshelf, so I decided it’s finally time to read it.
I’m so glad I did. And now I wish I had read it right away when it came out five years ago because I think Sheryl’s advise and words of wisdom would have helped me a lot more when I was a working woman engineer.
In the book Sheryl writes about her own career journey from childhood through her current position as COO at Facebook. She gives lots of details about her successes and challenges throughout her career and life, and I especially loved her honesty.
In addition to her own experiences, she also shares stories of women colleagues she’s met and worked with. There were so many stories in the book that I could relate to. Like when she wrote about feeling like she needed to continue to work while on maternity leave, or requesting closer parking spots for pregnant women at work, or when she talked about being scared to speak up and talk in a room full of men.
Something I especially liked about the book is when Sheryl brought up an issue women often face in the workplace she also presented a solution. She talked about crying in front of coworkers, and she argued that it is ok to do that on occasion and you don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed of who you are as a women, but to embrace it and use it to your advantage.
She wrote about women choosing a seat on the side or back of the room at meetings instead of siting at the table. I have personally done this often in my career and I found it really interesting to read that is so common for women to choose to try to blend into the background rather than try to be part of the conversation in meetings. She advised to not be afraid to sit at the table. We have valuable input and opinions and our voices deserve to be heard too.
I could also relate to the chapter in which she encourages women to support each other and avoid the queen bee scenario. I have seen similar scenarios when I was working in the male-dominated oil and gas industry. Some women seem to feel there is only room for one woman at the top and try to be the queen bee, pushing the other women out rather than helping to build each other up. I’m glad she acknowledged this happens and suggested women do more to help each other than to compete with each other in the workplace.
This book is a great for anyone who is interested in leadership roles and learning about what it takes to get to the top. I don’t envy her work schedule. It sounds as if she is always working, even when she is at home, but she was ok with that because at least she could be home for dinner with her kids then work again after they go to bed.
If I choose to go back to work in a corporate engineering job when my kids are a few years older I will reread this book before starting work again. I think it will give me the confidence to go back to work knowing I am the equal to anyone in the room.
I recommend this book to women who are working full-time and plan to continue working after you have kids. It will give you the confidence and reassurance you need to know that you are not alone and can do this! If you’d like to read the book, you can order it from Amazon by clicking here.
Have you read Lean In? Did you find it as interesting and insightful as I did? Would you recommend it to other women engineers?