Virtual Book Club: Lean In…Let’s Begin!

May 22, 2013

Virtual Chat: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg


Okay, I dove in, and I’m dying to share thoughts and read thoughts with you all about Sandberg’s theories on women in the workplace.   To be honest with you, I’m not sold on Sandberg yet.  But I’m wavering.  I do like this idea of leaning in, but it’s complicated, and when does Sandberg start talking about that?? (Disclaimer: I’m only on chapter 3).

Let’s start a comment thread to fuel the fire for our virtual chat here on Monday night at 8PM EST.  (Click on comments underneath the post’s title to see the thread and add comments).

Girl Power! (But what kind of power are we talking about?)

Here’s what’s running through my mind:

1) Sandberg claims that she does not advocate for all women having the same objectives, i.e. that it’s cool if some woman choose to go to work and that some women choose to stay home, saying “Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time.  We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values, and dreams.” (Sandberg 10).  However, she also claims that the only way for women to gain equal status with men is if women hold more positions of power.    She advocates for “ambition in any pursuit”.  Let’s keep it real Sheryl- those two ideas are dichotomous, and in my mind, they punch holes in your lean in theory. I question whether it’s possible for women to gain enough power in the world  to attain total equality with men given the biological drive women feel to stay home with their children, or spend time with their children.  The gap between men and women is the widest disparity in the world-it cuts through time, it cuts through culture.  Moreover, I question the idea and interpretation of “power” in our society, and wonder how attaining the power that Sandberg’s talking about will provide equality between men and women.

2) I love the connection between Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Sandberg’s Lean In: both profess how speaking up as a women in the workplace will laud you the title of “bitch” or that you are being “bossy”.  I work in a place full of women, and I still feel every time I speak up and am direct, people feel hurt or that I am being “bitchy”.  Sandberg says, “When a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled bossy. Boys are seldom called bossy because a boy taking the role of the boss does not surprise or offend” (19). I wonder how many other women feel like when they take the lead, they are judged negatively? Moreover, how can we as women support one another in these scenarios as opposed to pull each other down through gossip, or the expectation that we should receive emotional vindication at every meeting in the workplace?

Comment at your own pace!

In solidarity, Kass

Addendum: Let’s take two weeks to read this book.  It’s loaded! Can’t wait to comment throughout the weekend and chat on Monday via

Double Addendum: This is a friendly chat designed to provoke our thoughts and to grow and learn from one another.  We might think differently, but that’s the awesome part.


  1. Kassandra Minor


  2. Sherrie Miller

    I saw Cornelius’ post about your book club. I have to admit that I cringe every time I hear this phrase. I’m diving in and hoping to add to the conversation!

  3. So, I’m in chapter 3 and I have some thoughts … I find it intersting to think about the idea of feeling like a fraud, the idea that the issues of societal equialituy between men and women are not just external societal issues, but internal issues of a cultural psyche. We each carry the issues that keep us separated, oppressed (maybe) … however, is the only way to equalize our society for us to divide things 50-50. I’m not sure that that is the answer.

    I myself have made very clear choices of career because of my children. I know that I could have made different choices that would have made me more successful and powerful, but this choice makes me happy. Am I oppressed, have I not leaned in, have I drank the kool aid … For middle class family that doesn’t have all the luxury of Sandberg the choices are truly high stakes. Who will care for my children and raise them, who will worry about their education and sit and do homework with them?

    I want to bring up Ch.2 about feeling like a fraud. I’m glad that Sandberg brings this up. I believe this is a pervasive feeling among women. Even now I questions myself should I be writing and discussing, what will everyone think of me, am I smart enough … within myself I say yes, but the question still lingers. This is part of what drives us not only to stay back, but to questions each other as women. To label those that are more assertive as the “bitch” or the “bossy” one. When people whisper, who does she think she is. I believe in “fake in ’till you make it.” In counseling, I always talk about pretending as an important skill. The insecurity that women have is a barrier to achieving, and those that are confident are often viewed in a negative light.

    I feel there there have been many times in my life that I have been called these names because I am assertive. Sometimes I’ve worn it as a badge and sometimes I’ve been wounded by it, but definitely I have been shaped by it.

    I was always the smart girl, but this made me many other things too. When I began my career the smart became to be described in other ways. I have negotiated my salary several times, but I was described in not so nice ways. I have been a supervisor and I remember clearly people not wanting to work for me. Like I said sometimes a badge, sometimes a wound.

    One decision that I made was that I would try very hard not to engage in gossip against others, everyone has a story and a journey and instead of tearing each other down, I want to help others rise up. However, I also want to be true to myself. In the first 3 chapters to me the main message is about how to be true to ourselves, our whole selves, the mother, the career-minded woman, the wife, the friend …

  4. So I went to a birthday party today for a 5 yo boy. When it was time for cake the boys ran like savages to a table that had a table cloth an table settings. They were loud an rambunctious and almost tipped over the table. A little girl sat at the next table over, that had a table cloth, but no table settings. The other little girls proceeded to follow her, though it was clear that there were enough chairs and settings for the boys and the girls. I went over and pointed out to the girls that there were no plates and that they should move over before the boys ate all the cake.

    I thought this was so interesting in relation to our discussion about leaning in. When does this happen? When do our daughters get the message that they should. It sit at the table?

    I told Caleb (my son) my expectations for his behavior before we went inside, this did not stop him in anyway from acting like he owned the place. I just thought it was interesting.

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