Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Good day people,
I started reading this book in October 2013, finished it in January 2014 because I was chewing on all that the book talks about and there is a lot to it. Here is the book review of :
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

I have been unknowingly reading and voicing my opinions about women equality, gender discrimination in society and workplace, mental harassment by organization,... for quite some time. So when I started reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I was like 'You are spot on lady'. Got to know the term Feminism more correctly and know that I am a Feminist.
a more specific definition of feminism—“A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”.

Most popularly Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook. Earlier Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. She worked as chief of staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury. Has been voted as one of the 50 "Most Powerful Women in Business" by Fortune Magazine. In fact she has been one of the top heads of these big organisations and she is writing about women equality. Thats strange, one would think she must have had the best of opportunities, appreciation, support,... everything a women wants.

Like many blogs, magazines, media blamed and criticized her for having everything a women wants

But she is writing this book to encourage Men to Lean in more into family duties and Ladies to Lean In more into their Careers. This imbalance is not noticible as there are few women leaders at top positions and termed as 'Dominating, One of the Guys, Bad Mom,...'

She says :

About writing the book she says, "I never thought I would write a book. I am not a scholar, a journalist, or a sociologist. But I decided to speak out after talking to hundreds of women, listening to their struggles, sharing my own, and realizing that the gains we have made are not enough and may even be slipping.I am writing it for any woman who wants to increase her chances of making it to the top of her field or pursue any goal vigorously. This includes women at all stages of their lives and careers, from those who are just starting out to those who are taking a break and may want to jump back in. I am also writing this for any man who wants to understand what a woman—a colleague, wife, mother, or daughter—is up against so that he can do his part to build an equal world."

The book is divided into 11 chapters.
Let me give a summary of them and as my habit, quote from the book:

Introduction: Internalizing the Revolution:

Quoting directly from the book what she means by Internalizing the Revolution,
"In addition to the external barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives—the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet. Compared to our male colleagues, fewer of us aspire to senior positions."

Ch1: The Leadership Ambition Gap, What would you do if you weren't Afraid?
Image source:

Ch2: Sit at the Table

Dr. Peggy McIntosh from the Wellesley Centers for Women, gave a talk called “Feeling Like a Fraud.” She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments.This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name—The Impostor Syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible to the impostor syndrome, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it.When I gave a TEDTalk on how women can succeed in the workforce, I told a story to illustrate how women hold themselves back, literally choosing to watch from the sidelines. And yet as disappointed as I was that these women made that choice, I also deeply understood the insecurities that drew them to the side of the room and kept them glued to those chairs.

Ch3: Success and Likeability

Ch4: Its a Jungle Gym not a Ladder

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, explained that only one criterion mattered when picking a job—fast growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them. When companies grow more slowly or stop growing, there is less to do and too many people to not be doing them. Politics and stagnation set in, and everyone falters. He told me,

Ch5: Are you my Mentor?

 I realized that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. We all grew up on the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty,” which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after. Once again, we are teaching women to be too dependent on others.

Ch6: Seek and Speak your Truth
Women, speaking honestly in a professional environment carries an additional set of fears: Fear of not being considered a team player. Fear of seeming negative or nagging. Fear that constructive criticism will come across as just plain old criticism. Fear that by speaking up, we will call attention to ourselves, which might open us up to attack (a fear brought to us by that same voice in the back of our heads that urges us not to sit at the table)
Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.
“How can I do better?” “What am I doing that I don’t know?” “What am I not doing that I don’t see?” These questions can lead to many benefits.

Ch7: Dont Leave Before you Leave
 From an early age, girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good mother. By the time they are in college, women are already thinking about the trade-offs they will make between professional and personal goals.
The more satisfied a person is with her position, the less likely she is to leave.With the best of intentions, they end up in a job that is less fulfilling and less engaging. When they finally have a child, the choice—for those who have one—is between becoming a stay-at-home mother or returning to a less-than-appealing professional situation.

Ch8: Make your Partner a Real Partner

When mothers care for their children, it’s “parenting,” but when fathers care for their children, the government deems it a “child care arrangement.” I have even heard a few men say that they are heading home to “babysit” for their children. I have never heard a woman refer to taking care of her own children as “babysitting.” A friend of mine ran a team-building exercise during a company retreat where people were asked to fill in their hobbies. Half of the men in the group listed “their children” as hobbies. A hobby? For most mothers, kids are not a hobby. Showering is a hobby. :D

We need more men to sit at the table … the kitchen table.

True partnership in our homes does more than just benefit couples today; it also sets the stage for the next generation. The workplace has evolved more than the home in part because we enter it as adults, so each generation experiences a new dynamic. But the homes we create tend to be more rooted in our childhoods. My generation grew up watching our mothers do the child care and housework while our fathers earned the wages. It’s too easy for us to get stuck in these patterns. It is no surprise that married and cohabitating men whose mothers were employed while they were growing up do more housework as adults than other men. The sooner we break the cycle, the faster we will reach greater equality.

Ch9: The Myth of doing it all

Gloria Steinem said it best: “You can’t do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic ’til dawn … Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movemen. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

As Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, has noted, “Show me a woman without guilt and I’ll show you a man.”
This is Sheryl's favorite quote
Ch10: Lets start Talking about it!

A Google search for “Facebook’s male CEO” returns this message: “No results found.”
SOMETIMES I WONDER what it would be like to go through life without being labeled by my gender.

 My gut and the signals I received from others cautioned me that arguing the issue would make me sound like a strident feminist.I also worried that pointing out the disadvantages women face in the workforce might be misinterpreted as whining or asking for special treatment. So I ignored the comments. I put my head down and worked hard. 

Then, as the years ticked by, I started seeing female friends and colleagues drop out of the workforce. Some left by choice. Others left out of frustration, pushed out the door by companies that did not allow flexibility and welcomed home by partners who weren’t doing their share of the housework and child rearing. Others remained but scaled back their ambitions to meet outsized demands. I watched as the promise my generation had for female leadership dwindled. By the time I had been at Google for a few years, I realized that the problem wasn’t going away. So even though the thought still scared me, I decided it was time to stop putting my head down and to start speaking out.

When I gave a TEDTalk “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”.Someone else asked me, “So is this your thing now?”
At the time, I didn’t know how to respond. Now I would say yes. I made this my “thing” because we need to disrupt the status quo. Staying quiet and fitting in may have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path. But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead, we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women back, and find solutions.

Ch11: Working together towards equality

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. And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto. As we start using the talents of the entire population, our institutions will be more productive, our homes will be happier, and the children growing up in those homes will no longer be held back by narrow stereotypes.

Lets Keep Talking:
Join the Lean In Community at

Phew what a book & loong review. Please people dont go by the length of the review, do read the book..Women & Men too.

Let me know your views on this.
Have a great weekend !
Bye. Take care.


  1. Hi Nilima
    Good and detailed review. Keep up the great work. You have convinced me to read the book :)

  2. Thank you Sundari. Please do read the book & let me know your views.


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