Book Report: Lean In

A few months ago, the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg caught my eye at Target.  I had never heard of her.  I didn’t know anything about this book.  But the title intrigued me, and the book jacket description intrigued me more.  It stayed in the back of my mind for awhile.

A few days ago, I finally bought the book.  I had watched Ms. Sandberg’s TEDTalk, and I could wait no longer.  I knew I would have to intentionally read Lean In through a filter of “I’m NOT in business.  The culture of a school is certainly very different from the culture of an organization whose objective is to make a profit.  How can I apply this to my own career?”  Throughout the book there is an underlying current about women in workplaces surrounded by men.  As I’m sure you would expect, elementary education is the opposite of that.  Women dominate both the teaching staff and the administration in my school district.  I wanted to read Ms. Sandberg’s story, but my question was…  Does gender really affect my workplace experience in any way that is worth addressing?  Ms. Sandberg made a few excellent points that are, in fact, relevant to my experience.

You are in charge.  Don’t wait for opportunities to find you.  Don’t wait for the perfect time.  Your career is a jungle gym, not a ladder, and you can climb whichever direction you choose.

Don’t leave before you leave.  Don’t take action based on children you don’t yet have, for example.  Take a break when it’s time to take a break, not in anticipation of needing a break.

The work-life balance is an important concept, but a bad name.  Who would choose work over life?  Instead, we should remember that engaging in purposeful, compelling work is an important and satisfying part of life.  I especially loved a story Ms. Sandberg told to illustrate the challenge of setting boundaries and sticking to them.  There were two married women with children and one single woman on a panel of speakers.  The married women were discussing how hard it was to balance their lives, and the single woman interjected that she was tired of people thinking that issue was only for people with kids.  The single woman’s need to go to a party is just as important as the married woman’s need to attend her child’s soccer game.  You have every right to a full life, whether married or single, parent or childless.  The kicker is, you have to set your own boundaries.  Your employer is going to continue to make demands on your time.  It’s your responsibility to decide what you are willing to do.

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