Women, Work, and The Will To Lead

This is a summary of one of my very favorite books of all-time “Lean in” by the COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg.

“Lean In" digs deep into gender inequality and why women are still underrepresented as a valuable part of our global workforce, showing how they unintentionally hold themselves back, as well as outlining ways for us to enable and support them, including how you as a woman can take the lead and hold the flag of women in work high. 

There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.

Sheryl Sandberg

“Women  are still conspicuously absent from leadership positions, partially due to the leadership ambition gap. Nowhere is gender inequality more evident than in leadership positions: Just 20% of parliament seats globally are held by women & only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. 

Many factors contribute to this phenomenon, but one of the most important is the leadership ambition gap. Studies show that men are more ambitious and more likely to want to become executives than women.

Why? Gender stereotypes are one driver: Women are not expected to be ambitious and career-oriented, and those who violate these expectations can be labeled as “bossy” or worse. These stereotypes, enforced since childhood, can pressure women to temper their career goals.

Similarly, whereas most men automatically assume they can have both fulfilling personal lives and successful careers, women are constantly told by society and the media that eventually, they will have to make compromises between career and family. This often results in women being less committed to their careers and leaving the workforce to care for their children.     

Let’s talk openly about inequality and work toward correcting it, together.

We must be able to speak openly about gender and the disadvantages women face without this being seen as complaining or as demanding special treatment. An open discussion raises awareness and encourages more people to come forth and address the issues. This should in turn inspire more women to lead and more men to want to be part of the solution and support women to lead.

Women’s lack of confidence can hold back their careers.

In addition to the many external obstacles that impede women at work, they often also face a battle from within: self-doubt.

Even the most competent professionals, including the author herself, can be plagued by the impostor syndrome: feeling like your skills and success are fraudulent – and soon to be uncovered. 

Women tend to experience impostor syndrome more intensely than men and in general underestimate their own abilities. Studies across a multitude of industries such as medicine, law and politics show that women tend to judge their own qualifications and performance as worse than they actually are, while men do the opposite and tend to be overly confident.

Similarly, men tend to attribute their successes to their own innate skills and blame external factors for their failures, whereas women credit their successes to external factors and blame their innate abilities for their failures.

Self-doubt can also cause women to forgo great career opportunities, because they consider themselves unqualified. However, in a fast-moving world, you cannot wait for perfectly tailored positions to open up; instead, you must seize the initiative, grab opportunities, and make them work for you. In short, you must lean in to your career, not lean back or stand aside.

So what to do? Though you can’t will yourself to become confident, sometimes faking it can help. Acting and carrying yourself as if you’re confident can often transform into genuine confidence.

We should also acknowledge that women are less likely to feel confident enough to reach for opportunities and therefore, we must correct for this through encouragement and support.

Women must carefully navigate the razor’s edge of ambition and likability.

Even today, gender stereotypes color our perceptions of others: men are expected to be decisive and driven, women sensitive and communal.

Sometimes it is the mother herself who pushes the father away from childrearing duties by criticizing him whenever he cares for the baby: “That’s not the way to put on a diaper. Stand aside and let me show you!” The end result is that the father becomes less and less involved, leaving the majority of the work for the mother.

For true equality, mothers must treat fathers as equally capable partners and must share responsibilities so that both parents have their part to play.

Not only is equality at home important for women pursuing careers, but it also leads to happier relationships and sets an important example for children. Hence, it is always worth challenging an unequal status quo at home, even if it creates a few conflicts in the short term.

Equality means a truly equal partnership at home, too.

Before you go on maternity leave, lean in to your job as much as possible.

From an early age, girls are taught that one day they will have to choose between a successful career and being a good mother. This image is not only misleading and disheartening, it also has a nasty side effect: Women damage their own careers by preemptively making room for what they assume will be an impossible balancing act between career and family.

Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it

It’s time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table, seek challenges, and lean in to their careers. 

"if we want a world with greater equality we need to acknowledge that woman are less likely to keep their hands up. We need institutions and individuals to notice and correct for this behaviour by encouraging promoting and championing more woman" 

"We need to be able to talk about gender without people thinking we are crying for help, asking for a special treatment or about to sue"
Mark Zuckerberg said to Sheryl: "the desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back and when you want to change things, you cant please everyone. If you do please everyone you aren't making enough progress"

Lastly, I highly recommend this book for every female and particularly all female leaders out there. I love this book. I love it so much. And I especially loved how Sheryl focused on women imperatives toward success & leadership that needs to be changed and taken into consideration. In this book, Sheryl talked about how serious the issue of feminism in our world is. Moreover, she talked about how women are more cautious than men about seeking out new challenges and changing roles. 

I totally & strongly agree with every page, every line & every word Sheryl has written & emphasized on this book. 

Being aware of the problem is the first step to correcting it. The gender bias exists and we men & women should work together to transcend them.