Lean In: A Book Every Corporate World Woman Must Read

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As the whole world attempts to contain the spread of the corona virus, the job of the top global leaders has been a talking point. What individuals need currently are political leaders with sympathy, empathy and a capacity to show support — the characteristics women leaders tend to demonstrate more than men.

While it might take a pandemic to finally recognize the novel abilities and capacities women leaders offer, organizations shouldn't hold up until there is an emergency to give women an opportunity at leadership positions.

However, women in the corporate world do not seem to move up the ranks for various reasons as explained by Sheryl Sandberg, in her book, ‘Lean in: Women, work and the will to lead’.

The book is about the enigma women have to deal with all the time at the workplace. It discusses the problems women have to go through to succeed and lead in the modern world. The purpose of this article is to comment on the book but before we do that let us discuss how women leaders all over the world have dealt with the covid-19 pandemic.

1. COVID-19 and Women Leaders

The way women leaders have managed the Covid-19 situation, it’s hard to ignore their leadership qualities. According to an article of CNN, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for her clear, bold and supportive approach at flattening the curve.

The results of her clear communication - 20 deaths in a country of nearly 5 million people - speak for themselves. Or you can also consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has called for and established unity in the nation's response to the virus.

Taiwan and Norway's national responses to this crisis have also proved to be effective to date, and they all have one thing in common i.e. women leaders. The question which we should be asking therefore is how are the women leaders handling the situation so well.

Because it’s so difficult for women to get into office in the first place, Post argued (An assistant professor of national security and political science at Anderson University in Indiana) "they are often just better leaders". She said women are often perceived to be soft or weak during crises which makes them more likely to be decisive and firm (USA Today).

2. Sanberg’s Suggestions for Working Women

This again brings me to the book ‘Lean In’ by Sandberg. Like it has been mentioned above, this book is about women in the workplace and why are they not able to make it big. To accomplish more noteworthy gender equality in the working environment, women should effectively lean in to their work, sit down at the table, and advocate for themselves and other women.

Utilizing sociological research to back up her own experiences, Sandberg argues that gender discrimination, despite everything, still exists in the workplace and contends that it cannot exclusively be cured, but also in addition yield greater benefits for people, organizations, and the society.

The Prime Mninister of New Zealand and the president of Taiwan etc have proven that things change when women take initiative.

3. Why Is It That Women Remain Falling Behind Men?

The question still remains that why women in the corporate sector are falling behind in comparison to their male counterparts? Sandberg in her book has argued that, aside from the wage gap, an ambition gap also prevents women from achieving their full potential (Neeman, 2016).

Sandberg has examined several studies, one of which suggests that more men than women think or rather describe themselves as ambitious. Sandberg attributes this to the fact that women in the 21st century try to ‘have it all’. In the process women have internalized the fact that they must give something up, there are numerous examples of women giving up on their careers.

The author then addresses the concerns of women juggling family and work together. The author thinks that women put self-imposed barriers on them, after they have a family, in order to be successful in all aspects of life. Sandberg argues that this needs to change so that women get the opportunity to realize and reach their full potential.

This was written around eight years ago by Sandberg but a very recent report in Forbes.com by Avivah Witten-berg Cox has shown that in the times of Corona virus women in their thirties are very unsure if they will continue to work whenever the situation improves. There is always the conundrum of choosing between family and work for women.

4. Can Division of Responsibilities at Home Help Women in the Corporate World?

The book goes a step further and also addresses the division of responsibilities at home. The book discusses how division of responsibilities at home affects a woman’s success at work.

Throughout the book, Sandberg has emphasized the importance of family, spouse specifically. Because at the end of the day it comes down to spouses taking some responsibility for the children and contributing as a partner in terms of dropping the child to school, making food once in a while at home etc.

Sanderberg is of the opinion that not many women have an understanding partner because if they did more women would have been successful.

5. Charlotte Bears and Her Ideas

There are a lot of similar books which talk about the conditions of women at the workplace. But ‘I’d Rather be in Charge’ by Charlotte Beers is strikingly very similar to Lean In.

"I've distilled all I've learned and witnessed," she writes. "I want to show you how to lead, inspire and influence others–maybe only one or two others, maybe hundreds or thousands or even millions." I'd Rather Be in Charge presents a comprehensive guide for how to accomplish that.

Beers believes women have all that it takes, except that they cannot communicate their skills of leading. While men have always been socialized into the methods of leadership, women haven’t.

There’s no blueprint for women to follow, which leaves each woman to create her own path, which isn’t easy by any means. She through her book therefore offers a remedy, the much needed blueprint.

6. Relation Between Lean In and I’d Rather Be in Charge

The reason I discuss ‘I’d rather be in Charge’ here is because it sort of relates to the last chapter of the book by Sandberg. The last chapter in the Sandber’s book emphasizes the importance of unity among women.

Sandberg proclaims that in order for women to achieve an enlightened feminism, “all women from high-achieving career women to stay-at-home moms need to get on the same page”. The blueprint by Beers is a step in that direction.

7. A Definite Read

This now brings us to the point that why should you read this book? Sanderberg at the very beginning admits that her book is not for everyone, it’s for the white, well-educated, heterosexual, cisgender, and upper-middle women.

But the book can strike a chord with Indian readers too because in her book Sandberg says, “For decades, we have focused on giving women the choice to work inside or outside the home. But we have to ask ourselves if we have become so focused on supporting personal choices that we’re failing to encourage women to aspire for leadership”.

In India too, in the past decade we have seen that many women discontinue their work because of the pressure from their families. This robs the businesses from having diverse and unique perspectives which women bring at the workplace.

The Indian readers, specifically women can read this book to take inspiration and realize their potential because as Sandberg says in her book, “I have written this book to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through obstacles, and achieve their fullest potential.

I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto.” The book is written by a successful woman who wants other women to succeed according to their own definitions of success. All women must read this book for their sake, for their good.

Written By - Kshitij Kumar Ojha

Edited By - Daity Talukdar

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