“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
I spent fourteen years of my life studying in an all-girls’ school and I spent another four years teaching there. When I do the math, that’s more than half my actual age! Though we were surrounded with wonderful women and were given amazing opportunities, I now realize that maybe we didn’t have enough discussions about what it means to be a woman in today’s context. As much as we’d like to believe that paradigm shifts have happened over the past century, there are many issues left unsaid when it comes to women, family, and career.
Reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, made me realize how important it is to discuss this concept with young girls. It probably isn’t enough to just talk about the career options, but I feel that it’s also important to talk about career in the context of family and the general society.
At first, Susan Adams’ thoughts reflected my own assumptions about Sandberg’s views,
“My assumption was that Sandberg wanted women to tough it out and push ahead with their careers while their kids were young, and to put success in the office ahead of the time-consuming, energy-sapping but ultimately deeply rewarding demands of parenting.”
I thought that Sandberg would just talk about the usual work life balance and tell us that it is, indeed, possible to have it all. But like Adams, my initial impression was wrong. I can agree with her that it was a pleasant surprise to discover this:
“But now that I’ve read Sandberg’s book, I see that she is much more sensitive to the pull of mothering and how it conflicts with the demands of work.”
Make no mistake of thinking that this book is purely based on emotional experiences. Sandberg’s stories come alive with data and research. The numbers will tell us certain facts but the stories will make these facts relevant.
Sensitivity. I love how Sandberg’s writing appeared vulnerable and sensitive. Being a COO, one would expect a firm, aggressive, and (I hate to say it) ambitious tone – it was great to be reminded that you don’t always have to toughen yourself up. Being a powerful woman does not mean transforming yourself into a man.
Leadership. Sandberg points out the sad reality that women leadership has taken a backseat in society. The challenge for women is to simply step up and ask for it. From offices that don’t have women’s bathrooms to maternity rights, there are many issues in the workplace that work against women. If we don’t rally for this, who else will? And if there aren’t enough women leaders, who else will make these changes happen?
Unity. It’s never been about men vs. women. Many of the successful women in Sandberg’s book have loving and supportive partners. And to be fair, Sandberg explores the issues and discrimination that these men sometimes experience.
There are many more themes discussed in her book and I think it’s important for educators out there to make young girls more aware of these. We may have made leaps in terms of offering a variety of career options for young women, but no one really guides them when it comes to managing a career along with family life. And it’s not just for the women, we need to do the same with young men as well.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is available in National Bookstore and Fully Booked in the Philippines. Visit the Lean In website to find out how you can bring support into your classrooms and workplaces.