#NZLEAD RECAP: Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

We all seem to agree that it is tougher for woman to progress to leadership positions. Men, generally speaking, do have less pressure when it comes to working and raising a family. More often than not, they don’t have to take breaks in their career and are more supported in their decision to work, rather than raise a family.

This is not just an issue of societal pressures on woman, family life, the ‘glass-ceiling’ or the boys club. As woman, we’re actually not doing ourselves any favors. Let’s stop blaming the blokes. Because when you break it down a lot of this problem actually lies with us, and by us I mean WOMAN. We need to take ownership of these issues.

A lot of the time we are not actually seen as effective leaders. We either take on a masculine style or are ineffective because we’re easily threatened by whippersnappers. In the hard fight for leadership roles, we are forgetting that we need to be comfortable empowering leadership in other woman. We are creating a glass ceiling, just as much as men.

Also, woman need to stop judging each other for the decisions that they make! It is not our business to dictate the decisions of other woman in respect to their career and family. Look at the uproar around Marissa Mayer. If that’s what works for her, then how is it our business to get up in arms about it?

How does this judgement behavior encourage others to stick their necks out and go for the things that would normally be “a mans job” or “not woman like”? Sheryl’s experiences shows us that, as a woman, she felt reluctant to voice her success or go for things that woman don’t necessarily do for the fear of being judged or “not liked”. If we, as woman, don’t stop judging each other, how will we ever move forward and be successful in the pursuit of equality in all aspects of life?

Both men and woman agree that woman don’t go for roles that we perceive we are un-qualified for. This is a barrier for progression to leadership roles. If we don’t put our hand up and take the opportunity to close skill gaps, we will never be seen as confident or willing to learn. Men are confident and want to be seen as successful, so they take jobs that they haven’t done before and they excel (not all, but most). We need to step up, take a job where we might not tick all the boxes and just do it!

The bottom line is if we’re getting the right woman into leadership positions then they can develop the next generation of female leaders.

The evolution starts here.


#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Review of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg

We were very excited to receive copies of Lean In to review for #nzlead courtesy of Random House New Zealand and Neil Morrison. We wanted to give you our different view points on this book, so have summarized our opinions below.


I write this as I watch the news on Sunday morning and coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. Her death has been met with sorrow and jubilation. She was a bit before my time and in a different country so I can’t say I know much about her. But I do wonder, if Margaret Thatcher was a man, would there have been such strong reactions?

Woman having the will to lead is not just about girl power, it’s about society expecting it,  welcoming it, and encouraging it. This is where I think Lean In is different. Sheryl Sandberg talks about woman taking ownership of their career advancement, but there is just as much emphasis on men stepping up to the plate and getting the support to do so. Also, changing societial expectations around gender roles.

I feel this expectation on a regular basis. I’m in my early 30s and since I got married (about a year and a half ago), not a month goes by that i’m not asked when I’m having kids, with the implication that I will also leave work to look after them. Not my husband, me. When I say that I will someday but I’d also like to have home care and return to work, I am met with “why bother having children then”. And I get that, I really do, and it’s probably why a lot of working mothers feel really guilty. But why do woman get all the flack, if they don’t, and the support, if they do, decide to be stay at home mums?

I think we need to continue having this conversations and Lean In is just the beginning of this. We want woman to step up to senior leadership positions, but the ‘glass ceiling’ is not imposed by business it’s imposed by expectations, across society, on the roles of woman AND men. I love Sheryl Sandberg’s point of view, and I find it inspiring, let’s continue the conversation.


The first two chapters of Lean In really bothered me, don’t get me wrong – Sheryl’s points are very valid and they are backed up by her experiences but the constant complaints of the equality gap bothers me. I have thought about this a lot over the last month of reading the book, the first two chapters was constant statistics of what is going wrong, what was wrong in the past and the same old story about woman not making a move up the corporate ladder. This opinion changed however when I got to It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder. She finally got to the points of offering advice and helping woman progress and thinking of their lives differently. I understand the statistics of what has happened but I haven’t experienced this in my career – but I am also not saying it’s not real. But I want advice, I want woman out there sharing how they got ahead, how they got to their role of leadership and how to stay there and be influential.

As I continued to read through the different aspects of Sheryl’s career and the things that she learned through different points, it taught me so much. It made me think about the way that I work and the directions that I have thought about taking. I am extremely driven and ambitious and I have constantly agonized over what step to take next, what direction I should take, should I be taking that role because it is different to what I thought I would be doing. Reading this book showed me that I need to make decisions based on what I love doing, what I want to be doing in 5 years time and will this take me to my dream point in my life 10-20 years from now?

Sheryl also showed me that just because I am a woman it shouldn’t matter. I should be appreciated and respected based on my merits and my contributions not on what gender I am. I may not have experienced discrimination from males because I am a female, but I have experienced it based on my age. I am 24 and I’m opinionated. I voice my opinions and I share what I think. I have seen some older males not like my approach mainly because I am young and “don’t know anything”, but it is who I am and it is what has seen me get ahead. I have seen this in woman also. Sheryl talks about Success and Likeability and mentions how when a woman is successful, men see this position that a woman shouldn’t be in, but woman also see this. Sometimes woman haven’t been happy for other successful woman in their teams or organisation and this also tends to hold woman back. I have felt this in my short time and I don’t like it. Sheryl’s chapter on Success and Likeability opened my eyes. It is a great chapter and it will open your eyes to. 

As Amanda mentioned above, she has had the “kids” question pointed at her, I haven’t had this (maybe because I’m only 24) but I actually don’t want to have kids. Will I be “talked” about for that decision, or will I be seen as a woman trying to hard to get to the top? I don’t know, but at the end of the day – it is my decision, it’s not yours, it’s not the other lady down the street and it’s not the rest of the worlds place to have an opinion. Like Marissa Mayor – if I want to have kids and return to work after 2 weeks, then I will do that!

I may not have experienced gender inequality – but my god, I am a woman and I will do what I think is best for me and the family that I may or may not have one day. As woman, we need to do what we want to do to be happy, if you want to quit work to be a mum, then do that. If you want to return to work after 2 days, then do that. It is your choice. We have come far – and we need to continue moving forward. Woman are just as powerful as men and it is up to everyone to make sure that is recognized.

Our questions this week:

Q1) Have you read Lean In? What were your key take-outs? Why?

Q2) If Margaret Thatcher was a man, would there have been such strong reactions?

Q3) Did Marissa Mayer set things back or prove a point? (if you missed this kerfuffle – google her, she’s the CEO or Yahoo who returned to work 2 weeks after having her first child).

Q4) What can we do to change expectations?