Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

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My Highlights from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will to Lead

Over the winter holidays, I spent my time catching up on sleep, family, as well as on intellectual activities such as reading and personal projects. Since diversity in tech is a cause that I am passionate about, I decided to read Lean In, a prized work of writing in the business world written by Facebook’s very own COO. This article outlines the quotes I highlighted throughout the book, why I found them influential, and my takeaways from this reading endeavor.

For women, feeling like a fraud is a symptom of a greater problem. We consistently underestimate ourselves.

A simple but powerful statement in a section talking about imposter syndrome. The implication of this is that women tend to undersell themselves. While it is institutionally difficult for women to climb the ladder in the workforce, we can sometimes be denying these opportunities to ourselves by not showing that we deserve it. I found this influential because it motivated me to reconsider my own actions and thoughts about myself. Working on not underselling yourself is something that girls and women alike can be taught before setting foot into the workforce.

When a student makes a comment that others refer to…that helps the professor remember the critical points and who made them.

Especially in male-dominated fields, girls have the tendency to speak up less in class as their male counterparts. As a student, I found this to be such a pivotal point that I plan to implement goals to participate more in class discussions, and hopefully be remembered and recognized for doing so. It’s good to start small — begin by piggybacking off of another person’s comment by asking a question or providing insight once in each of your classes, and slowly grow into more comfort in speaking up.

If a woman is competent, she does not seem nice enough. If a woman seems really nice, she is considered more nice than competent.

I’ve definitely struggled with this thought before, and I thank Sheryl for putting it into words. How do you appear both competent AND nice as a woman? It can definitely seem like the only way to get by in the tech is by “being one of the boys.” We need to strike a balance and realize that it isn’t an anomaly when a female coworker is both nice and competent. The key is how we view assertiveness. When a man is assertive, it is seen as normal and even encouraged, pointing to hypermasculinity. When a woman is assertive, she comes off as brash, abrasive — a number of negative descriptors. The key comes on both sides. We need to be more comfortable with assertiveness from women, and not make it an expectation for men.

Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.

This really hit home with me because there is a LOT I want to do with my career, and not all of it follows a straight, perfect line. I want to try things out, explore, and see where life takes me. In a world where we don’t know what tech will look like a year from now, it’s hard to imagine what our careers in tech are going to look like once we enter the workforce. I plan to take steps against being afraid of an opportunity to learn, even if it means less seniority. In the end, it’s all about feeling happy and fulfilled in your career, not the title you get from it.

We all need to encourage men to lean in to their families.

Lean In isn’t just a message to all the women at work, it’s a message to everyone. While women need to take a seat at the table and lean in more at work, men need to lean in to their families and take a seat at the dining table. This means working to achieve more of a 50/50 split of household tasks. This will not only help women lean into their careers, it will also set a precedent for children. Children of heterosexual couples in the next generation can see mothers and fathers taking equal roles in the family, and be more encouraged to do the same when they have a family of their own.

A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Preach it, Sheryl. I think this quote is a fantastic way to sum up what this book means, why we should care, and why feminism is not something to look down upon. I’ve proudly called myself a feminist ever since I knew what the term meant, but sometimes I can’t shake the “feminist memes” out of my head.

I know that that isn’t what it means, and it’s our job as a society to redefine feminism to show others that it’s about equality and giving everyone a fair slice of the pie. We can start in a field that, in the digital age, impacts nearly every other field. We can work to close the gender gap in technology and redefine the way women are viewed in tech, and it will soon pervade to other fields, seep into our home lives, and eventually we can minimize the implicit biases that exist within us about our identities and what they mean in society.

Finally, I would like to thank Sheryl Sandberg for giving me actionable metrics to help solve a problem I’m really passionate about. I’m excited to take her words and apply them at school, at my next internship, and after graduation when I enter the workforce.