Pretty, Inspirational: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

I grew up playing little league baseball and with the understanding that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I came of age with the affordances of middle class life. The Women’s Movement is something I’ve only read about in conjunction with Second Wave feminist theory. I am blessed to be where I am: in a small studio apartment living check-to-check while I try to a build a career in something, anything that I studied in school.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I watched Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDTalk, and I picked up a copy of the Facebook COO’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Through memoir and extensive research, Sandberg extends the topic of her TEDTalk and provides business advice and inspirational words for women. She encourages women to “Sit at the table,” a metaphor for the very real need to get women into leadership positions and making more than $.77 to man’s $1 (6). Her experiences at Google and Facebook are especially motivating. At the end of each chapter, I felt inclined to revise my résumé and buy a new pair of heels.


In all seriousness, the most valuable piece of advice presented itself in Chapter 4, “It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder,” where Sandberg suggests that it’s not always about climbing the corporate ladder, but about taking risks and jumping to the next best opportunity for your career.

Lean In, a national best seller, came out about a month ago. I’ve been scrolling through some of the reviews —  the book’s critics are a little unreceptive. I suppose that’s what a review is.  Critical. Among other things, reviewers criticize Sandberg’s book for targeting privileged white women and neglecting academic feminism. Sandberg herself is criticized for writing on such a topic while she finds herself in a comfortable and financially secure position.

After reading the reviews, I felt a little guilty myself. Having said that, Sandberg acknowledges these very critiques within the first 11 pages. She recognizes that many women are struggling in today’s economy (10); she explains that with more women in power, we could address the severity of women’s issues in other parts of the world (7); finally, she acknowledges that not every woman wants to be the COO of Facebook (10). Perhaps critics did not read past the first chapter.

Sandberg says within those same pages, “It is not a feminist manifesto – okay, it is sort of a feminist manifesto, but one that I hope inspires men as much as it inspires women” (9). Most importantly, Sandberg implores us, “Let’s Start Talking About It” (the title of Chapter 10). She wants for women in small studio apartments and in large corporate offices alike to consider what can be done if we “lean in.”

While Sandberg calls for women to find the will to lead, I am amazed by how this has been realized in my own life. I’ve watched my mother advance in her career to a Senior Director position at an ever-growing company. Personally, I report to a female Supervisor, who reports to a female Senior Manager, who reports to a female Senior Director, a female COO, and so on. I think about the accomplishments of colleagues in my graduate program. Finally, I see the incredibly talented and driven people behind Pretty Living, and I know that these are the people I want to surround myself with.

I encourage you to read Lean In. At the very least, watch Sandberg’s TEDTalk and be inspired.

Feature photo by Alicia Broudy

Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

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