A review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read Sandberg’s book, please do.  It was a thought-provoking and fast read.  Although Sheryl doesn’t go into extensive detail about many of the studies on gender inequality that she highlighted in her book, it was nevertheless a fantastic overview of the status of the current gender gap, with references for those who wanted to delve deeper.

I must admit that before I even picked up the book, I had read some opinion pieces that charged Sandberg with blaming women for the gender gap and so I already harbored some level of skepticism about her views.  However, having read the book in its entirety, I think she did a fantastic job of arguing that there are various causes that lead to gender inequality, with many obstacles imposed by institutional, social, and cultural norms.  All these things lead to a lack of support and encouragement for women in career advancement, leading them to think it is in their best interest to lean back from the work place, making it less likely that these women will become leaders that can change and remove those obstacles for future generations, thus generating a self-perpetuating cycle.

In addition, Sheryl made it very clear that if a women chooses to lean back from her career to spend more time with her kids, she still has a full time career as a mother and not only is this OK but it is very admirable.  But the key word here is CHOICE.  What she does argue is that, in our world as it is today, women don’t yet have real choice.  Some women might choose to lean back from her career because the world has made it harder for her to continue choosing to have a career – so then is this real choice?  Lastly, she argues that similar attitudes can be seen for men, that our society still lacks full acceptance that it is perfectly normal for men to choose to lean in to raising their children in order to support the women leaning into their career.  I acknowledge that I’m not yet at the stage where I have to make the decision between a career and children, so I don’t know how difficult it can be, but I hope that I have real choice and no matter what that choice is, I also hope I am not criticized for it.

Overall a worthwhile read to get people thinking and discussing this important issue.  This topic is a deeply personal and emotional one, with vastly different viewpoints.  And, although I personally don’t agree with every one of Sheryl’s points, I think it’s admirable that she is speaking out about it.  The more conversations we have, the more likely we are to acknowledge that there still is a gender gap so that we can identify ways to close it.  There is not a single solution, and it will certainly take time, but hopefully we can all work together to help close it faster.  This is what de la Femme aims to do.  Together we can make a difference.

Please join de la Femme and our speaker Frances Toneguzzo, PhD, Executive Director of Partners Healthcare Research Ventures and Licensing at our next event on April 30th, 2013.  Frances will share with us opportunities and lessons learned in her career path from academia to biotech and startup companies to the tech transfer field, and advice on how to carve out your own career advancement opportunities.  Come meet Frances for an evening of insightful discussion over dinner.  Register at