Books that make you RE-THINK! – “Lean In”

Books are supposed to be past their use-by-date but in the last few months I have read A LOT OF FEMINIST BOOKS! And they are certainly going to start some new conversations.

LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg was the first one; subtitled ‘Women, work and the will to lead’. (She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook for the few who might not know and has two kids and an excellent husband.)

I know this book is about very privileged American women who go to the most expensive and prestigious universities – and establish some of the right contacts – and get the top jobs in exciting industries. But one of the interesting things is that

EVEN THESE PRIVILEGED WOMEN GENERALLY FACE MOST OF THE SAME PROBLEMS AT WORK AND AT HOME as those of us who are much less privileged!

LEAN IN urges women to ‘sit at the table’, to ‘stand up for yourself’ – ASK FOR THE RAISE. That’s the first part.

The second part is that if you do – some of your colleagues who expect that as a woman you will be warm and nurturing and supportive of their goals – will find such behavior unacceptable and find you personally difficult to work with. (LOTS OF EXAMPLES!)

One thing I also noticed is that most of the examples of successful women who are included, are drawn from the high-tech industries which don’t suffer from the same entrenched gender divisions as the old industrial age ones.  I do think that in the networked society of the 21st century the traditional management skills of females – of collaboration, consultation, and teamwork, are going to be much more highly valued and acknowledged.

If ever the time was ripe for getting a bit further than winning the vote – NOW IS IT! Nowhere is this more obvious than in Sheryl Sandberg’s acknowledgements.

In the interest of retaining your attention I have summarised them.

Being privileged also includes having a writing partner, Nell Scovell. Marianne Cooper also worked on the book for 18 months – as a sociologist at a university Gender Research Unit. Jennifer Walsh convinced Sheryl to write the book and stayed by her from beginning to end providing encouragement. Jordan Pavlin prepared the way – fleshing out ideas and Sonya Mehta, editorial chief at Knopf, provided unflagging support to keep the project on track.

David Dreyer and Eric London served as trusted advisors and pored over every draft from first to last. And a whole range of names 10 in all – helped with setting up the Lean In community.

Tracy Fischer led all the international work on the book and checked every aspect of the roll out and publication = along with sixteen others who are referred to by name.

Belinda Hutchinson – chair of the board of QBE in Australia provided the perfect forward (to the Australian edition).Gail Rebuck from Random House gave support from the beginning. Ed Faulkner and 10 more women are acknowledged for their support of the overseas publications.

Amy Schefler (sister-in-law) was of immense help and commented on every draft/ Gloria Steinem shared her wisdom and Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey provided encouragement. Gene Sperling (Director of the National Economic Council) and ‘one of the busiest people I know’ found the time to write page after page of key suggestions.

Mindy Levy (organizational skills) and Melody Hobson sustained the auhor’s confidence – and many other women mentioned by name helped with sharing ideas. And Larry Summers – (heard of him?) along with 27 others are thanked for their ideas and feedback.

That’s just for starters.

Sheryl Sandberg acknowledges all the individuals and organisations that assisted with research (and there is plenty of it). The Institute of Gender Research at Stanford, Professor Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford Graduate School of Management, Kathleen McCartney, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Professor Hannah Harvey Riley, Kim Parker –Pew Social and Demographic senior researcher, Phil Garland president of methodology of Survey/Monkey etc. etc – and all her colleagues at Facebook.

This is the most evidence I have ever seen of the shift to collaborative organisaton and teamwork – in relation to a book!

I’m not complaining. The book is stacked with research that is quotable – and there are always some who are convinced by ‘hard data’; I spent ages going through the well written notes at the back that supported every page, instead of interrupting the ‘story she tells.

I enjoyed the book and envied the author the number of people she could draw on for feedback and support – and I also marvel at how many cooks made such a good broth!

 

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