Book Review: Lean In

Title: Lean In – Women, Work, And The Will To Lead
Author: Sheryl Sandberg
Year: 2013
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 172
Topics Covered: Leadership, Inequality in the workplace, Women in business

I have had the blessing in my life to have had three extremely strong and powerful women who have impacted my life – my beautiful grand-mother Irene Gomez, my amazing mother Irene Chiriboga and my incredible wife, Denise Chiriboga. My grandmother and mother raised me to believe that women have power, have a voice, have unbelievable strength and are leaders. Growing up I saw my mother start off as a building janitor and then work her way up to becoming an office employee and eventually into a Manager. She used to tell me stories of how she encountered barriers and struggles in the workplace just for being a female leader.

It was because of her example and character that I have always believed that women are powerful, mighty and should be given the same opportunities as any man. When thinking about my potential wife as a young 20 something year-old, I always wanted a partner and equal. I wanted a woman who had her own career, was strong, independent, could hold her own, spoke her mind and used her voice. I was blessed to have found this woman and 5 years later we had a beautiful baby girl, Valencia. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a book that I wanted to read because I was hoping it could help me in some way see the world through a woman’s eyes and learn about the struggles they face in the corporate world. I wanted to learn about what my mom experienced and learn how I can help stop my daughter from experiencing this.

What I Learned

Lean In is a book for both males and females and shows us how there are still inequalities between genders in the workplace. Sheryl points out that women still have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do. “A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.”  Although a lot of progress has been made, female accomplishments seem to still come at a cost and face social penalties. Men being focused on their career are called ambitious while women who do the same are called selfish. Men being tough on their team is called being authoritative, while women are called bossy. Sheryl displays some key insights that I never knew about women in Lean In. Women are more prone to:

  • Credit their success to external factors than her own actions
  • Underestimate themselves and judge their performance worse than it actually is
  • Mute their own achievements

Sheryl identifies these traits because she wants women to recognize them and overcome them. One of my favourite takeaways from this book is this quote,

“Careers are a jungle gym not a ladder. Ladders are limiting – people can move up or down, on or off. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.”

This book is beautifully written and I love how Sheryl interweaves her stories into the lessons that are shared. What a wonderful read about a successful business woman, motivating and encouraging other women to unleash the power they have within themselves. And what wonderful lessons for men in this book, especially to learn to help out around the house and do their share of housework.

Why You Should Read This Book

If you are a woman, you should read this book to empower you and identify things in your life that you may be doing that are holding you back. If you are a man, you should read this book to learn how you can help to remove barriers that women face in the workplace. For both genders, there is really some great career advice and leadership lessons that Sheryl shares that will enrich your life.

Favourite Quotes

  • “Whatever this book is, I am writing it for any woman who wants to increase her chances of making it to the top of her field or pursue any goal vigorously. This includes women at all stages of their lives and careers, from those who are just starting out to those who are taking a break and may want to jump back in. I am also writing this for any man who wants to understand what a woman – colleague, wife, mother, or daughter – is up against so that he can do his part to build an equal world.” – pg. 10
  • “The hard work of generations before us means that equality is within our reach. We can close the leadership gab now. Each individual’s success can make success a little easier for the next. We can do this – for ourselves, for one another, for our daughters, and for our sons. If we push hard now, this next wave can be the last wave. In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” – pg. 172

Final Thoughts

My wish is for my daughter to grow up in a world where she is not at a disadvantage for being a woman. I want her to live in a world where she gets paid the same as any man and has equal opportunity to lead and succeed in whatever she chooses. Lean In is a call for us all to stand up for women’s rights and do our own part to build an equal world. I fight for my daughter now and support women like Kirstine Stewart, Amber MacArthur, Arlene Dickinson, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Hillary Clinton. These women are breaking through barriers and showing the world, in the words of Beyoncé, women may truly “run the world.”


Full Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Random House of Canada. I thank them for sending me this book and allowing me to review it. They did not pay me at all and this post is my honest opinion of the book.

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