I am currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. I’d been meaning to read it for a while but I only got reminded of it again when that Asiana plane crashed. Sandberg was supposed to be on board that flight but switched last minute.
The book is about women in leadership positions and why there aren’t enough of them. There are more women with college degrees than men; more women with excellent academic record than men. Yet only 4% of women are leaders of Fortune 500 companies in the US. According to Sandberg, the problem isn’t so much inequality in the workplace but more about women themselves. After the feminist revolution and employment equity was somehow (perceived to be) achieved, women still feel like they have to make tough choices – slow down at work, take care of the kids, explore other passions, fall out of the race altogether.
I am one of those women. I made the decision to leave the traditional workforce and do my own thing. Yes it’s because I wanted to focus on raising my children first. And no, it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was a privilege. You all know that story. Now I’m in business.
Sandberg says a lot of women hold themselves back – from seeking higher positions, negotiating for higher pay, exploring new ideas, starting their own companies. And a lot of these fears were caused by the stereotypes given to little girls. When little girls are assertive, they are labelled “bossy”. Sandberg says we have to change all that. Little girls who are called bossy are actually just showing great leadership skills.
The book raises a lot of questions as it tries to re-ignite the feminist revolution. Sandberg started an online Lean In community encouraging women anywhere to form groups and meet once a month. I’m actually thinking I want to form a circle of 8-10 women peers to discuss the book and take the steps — because though I’m not in any corporate organization, as a creative entrepreneur and tv host I do all the negotiating, planning, selling and collaborations by myself. Half the time I am just winging it. I wish I had a mentor.
Last April while in Toronto I met with a Canadian business leader, author, TV personality and venture capitalist Arlene Dickinson of the Dragons’ Den fame. It was a real meeting… in a boardroom. I’ve been dying to share this story and I hope to do so in another post. Arlene asked me a question that stayed with me. She said, “How do you know you’re not under-valuing yourself?” Wow. I always thought I knew my worth. But that question made me double, triple think.
A lot of us women under-value, under-represent, under-express ourselves. According to Sheryl Sandberg, this has to stop.
Going back to our fears – in the boardroom, in that lunch meeting, in school, at the PTA, in your community, at home, in a relationship – what would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Have you read the book? Share your thoughts.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is available at National Book Store, P895.