Photo Credit: Rachel Greenspan
Recently, I had to write a book review for a leadership graduate class. It didn’t take me long to decide to write about my latest favorite leadership book, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” For those who haven’t read the book, I personally recommend it. For those whose summer reading list is getting too long, give yourself a few minutes to watch her Ted Talk that started it all; it covers the basics and might encourage you to add the book to your list anyway.
Sandberg covers various topics about women in leadership, urging them to “lean in” to their ambitions and pursue them with vigor. While I could enthusiastically give another review on the book (my graduate cohort were quite convinced I was going to start handing out copies at the end of my presentation), there’s one particular area I want to focus on with my fellow Quarterlettes- leaning in with and for other women.
In the era of Mean Girls, The Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives of-Insert-Any-Cocktail-Serving-City-Here, it’s apparent that we as women still have a lot of leaning in to do with and for one another. While I can get sucked into mindless and seemingly harmless media content just as much as the next gal, I wonder how much of it we are actually absorbing. Furthermore, I worry about the younger women who aren’t watching with a more careful filter. Are they distinguishing what is “real” and what is perhaps entertaining but not actually socially acceptable?
“Lean In” magnifies the gender gaps that still exist between men and women when it comes to comparing wages and leadership ambition. The gist is women still have a lot of work to do before we can be considered equal in the work place. The disturbing part is, while men are beginning to recognize ways to support women, there are still women out there refusing to “help a sister out.”
Sandberg tells one particular story about one of the first female U.S. Navy submarine officers. When asked about her experiences in an all-male division, she gave only positive comments about the support she received from her colleagues in making her feel welcomed and valued in the workplace. However, her experience with the wives of the other officers is where she felt completely bombarded and judged. While this woman choose to fearlessly lean in and navigate a male-dominated career, these wives were questioning her decisions and criticizing her for taking such a non-traditional path.
These women, along with the Regina Georges and Miranda Priestleys of our world are the ones I worry about. While men are out there continuing to make more money and advance in their careers, there are still women holding other women back. As Sandberg describes the work force, “It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder,” therefore, there’s plenty of room for all of us to get ahead. What gives?
Sandberg has made me think of all the times I’ve been guilty of not supporting my fellow sisters. Seemingly casual comments about the way another woman looks or dresses, criticizing women we don’t even know on TV or magazines, or any time we’ve used the “B word” to describe a woman for simply trying to better herself, are examples of us as women not leaning in. When we rally to support our sisters, we can’t just choose which women to encourage. We must look past our differences, agree to disagree without being disagreeable toward one another, and then move forward in uplifting our fellow women. If we get caught up in what Sandberg calls the “she-said/she-said” game, we are only wasting more time and holding ourselves back while the “good old boys club” continues to thrive.
As a Quarterlette, I am honored to be a part of blogging communities such as this, where women can come to encourage and support one another. When I’m having a bad day and want to know that I’m not the only one still not sure of how things will all pan out, it’s nice to have a community of women so eager to embrace me and say “Don’t worry, me too!”
I encourage all my Qlette sisters to continue to seek ways to uplift and support one another- online and offline, at work and at home. If we can continue to identify ways to lean in with and for one another, we will only become a stronger tribe of kick ass women ready to prove this is not just a man’s world.