I’ve always been an avid reader. My past is scattered with amazing books of all types. When I was 10 I was obsessed with The Babysitter Club books. So much so, that I have over 30 of them sitting in storage, waiting for the day when my girls will be old enough to read them, and enjoy them just as much as I did. This year I set a goal for myself, to branch out a little. To read books that aren’t necessarily what I’m used to. In other words, some non-Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Divergent/other fictional series. So because I have a fantastic husband, he jumped on board with this goal, and helped me out with my first new book for 2016. He gave me Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg for Christmas.
It’s been around for a while, first published in 2013. So I’m probably a little late on the block to be reviewing it. But I found it to be an amazing read and figured it deserves a few compliments.
“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
It most definitely is superb, witty, candid and a meaningful read! To begin with, Sandberg is an inspirational woman. She and her husband (who I am so sorry to hear passed away last year) have worked for some of the biggest names in the world. Throughout the book are mentions of their time with Google, Facebook, Yahoo, SurveyMonkey, the United States Treasury. I am in awe of her career. Secondly I LOVE that there is facts in the book. Not only facts and statistics, but New Zealand statistics! It’s so intriguing, and just that little bit more interesting for me to be able to compare my own country to others that she mentions. Facts such as of the 197 heads of state in America, only 22 are women. That’s 11.17%. Of the Top 500 companies by revenues, only 21 are headed by women. That’s 4.2%. That’s a far cry from equality.
It is clear that the key message of this book is for women to rise to being equal, by sitting at the table, speaking to be heard, and rising to positions of authority. It’s not just the fact that women are held back from professional advancement, but worse – we hold ourselves back. She strives for changing the conversations from what women can’t do, to what women can do.
Everyone talks about climbing the corporate ladder, but Sandberg describes it as a jungle gym. Sometimes in life you do take a sideways turn, or even a step back in order to move forward in a more promising direction. When we undertake this journey, we must understand that it’s not just a straight line from start to finish. I found myself particularly absorbed in this chapter, because my own career path has been a jungle gym. Not often would you see someone move from a Top 4 Accounting firm to be a part-time receptionist in a gym. But that diagonally backwards move took me on a path to becoming the Reception Manager in that gym. From there I then took a sideways step to Marketing, and now I am no longer Reception Manager, but a part-time Marketing Co-Ordinator. I’ve always had faith that my decisions, whilst they might seem risky at the time, will create a new path to an enlightening experience that does not disappoint. These are often the decisions I make when I choose not to be afraid.
One of my favourite chapters was “Make your Partner a Real Partner”. Probably not my husband’s favourite chapter because I began quoting references to the book about what he should be doing more of. But it’s so true! And it’s exactly what I was thinking when I wrote A Women’s Place is Wherever She Chooses To Be. What was comforting to read is that in order to be successful she acknowledges the support of her husband. It is a testament of the strength of your relationship when you are able to work together to jointly rise in your respective careers, whilst maintaining a stable home life and ensuring your children receive lots of love and attention.
“For many men,the fundamental assumption is that they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.” Sheryl Sandberg
I love that this book is full of vulnerability and personal anecdotes. I believe this is what really draws the reader in, and allows them to truly engage with the messages. The personal experiences she shares, give her humility and reminds us that she too is human, and encounters the same struggles with parenting and working as everyone else. There is no doubting Sandberg is an incredible woman with an amazing story to tell. She retells the day she spoke up about the need for parking for pregnant women at the Google campus. Further on she discusses her choice to not accept Mark Zuckerberg’s initial offer, gaining a response that was much more attractive and lucrative. Sandberg talks of how she choose to speak up and speak out. And we need to do the same.
I’ve definitely never considered myself a feminist, perhaps because I’ve never really thought much about what a feminist is. And perhaps because I’ve become accustomed to the negative connotations that come with the label “feminist”. But after reading this book, I can’t help but say yes I am one! I believe women should be more present in the corporate world, and I believe men should spend more time being domestic. I am all for 50% of our parliament being represented by women, and the average pay for women being on par with that of the average pay for men. I want to see the large number of educated women follow through to careers. I want my daughters to become leaders in whatever field they choose, without limitations or restrictions. I want gender equality.