Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

If we’re walking on the street and it’s very windy, we often have to lean in to the wind to make forward progress. More often than not, it’s our own fears that we’re leaning in to in order to ignite our dreams and goals.

Leaning in is the philosophy of pushing ourselves forward no matter what is pushing us back. Sheryl Sandberg, the current Facebook COO and former Google executive, has written a book titled “Lean In” that she describes as a “sort of feminist manifesto” about women in the workplace. She laments the lack of women in leadership roles and encourages women to be more assertive in pursuing their professional goals.

I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and achieve their full potential. I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto…

The Human Development Report produced by the UN includes a composite index that captures gender inequalities across several dimensions, including economic status.

Sandberg’s experiences with leadership as a woman are relatable and accessible as she speaks about being a feminist, and being married to a feminist. She fights for equality while also acknowledging the myriad facets of motherhood and femininity that require our attention. The odds have been set against us because we are wives, leaders, workers, parents, friends, and lovers. She emphasizes once more how women still shoulder the majority of domestic duties and are under pressure to give up their employment in order to care for their families.

In the book the following pertinent challenges that women may encounter at work and at home are discussed by Sandberg, along with advice on how to overcome them:

  • There is a lack of leadership desire. This is characterized as men aspire to top leadership roles more than women do.
  • “Sit at the table” is required for women. Women actively engage and take the initiative to sit at the table.
  • Women must abandon the idea that their careers are ladders. There would be more chances for movement and a variety of ways to ascend to the top if women viewed their jobs as more like a jungle gym.
  • It’s important for women to have teachers, but they must be receptive to the advice they receive.
  • Women need to make their partners “real partners.” Find the men that will support women and will be equal partners at home.
  • Women need to start discussing gender disparities and collaborating to achieve equality.