“I don’t speak for every person in the world. I never claimed to — no one can.”
“The whole point of this book was to let ourselves off the hook.”
“Believe in yourself. Sit at the table. Lean in!”
in. Or, “Lean In,” the directional title of the book, which has opened itself to women announcing they can also #LeanOver, #LeanSideways, #LienIn. The work has been heralded as either the most important feminist manifesto since Betty Friedan’s or as a devastating Feminine Mistake, written by the Facebook chief operating officer whose personal fortune must leave her tone-deaf to the plight of the typical worker — a woman who, when she refers to “Mark,” means “Zuckerberg.” It was released five days ago.
Put your elbows on the table. Kick your shoes off — Sandberg does, revealing painted toenails in an afternoon interview. Let’s lean way in and talk about this book until we’re sick to our stomachs (#SpleenIn). Already sick? Proceed to the online comments, where some man-toads are probably debating whether Sandberg is hot.
First, her Washington tour: a Willard Hotel breakfast, a private conversation in Facebook’s local offices and an NPR-sponsored discussion at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, overflowing with women.
“As a 28-year-old woman in the workforce, I am always referred to as a girl,” says one attendee, who wants to take back respect.
“It’s wonderful to have a Web site,” says one older woman. But what the country really needs, she says, is legislation.
A third wants to know what to do when her ideas are ignored, when it seems no one is interested in her voice.
“The short answer,” Sandberg says, “you speak up by speaking up. You sit at the table by sitting at the table.”
It’s easy, no? No?
In person, it is almost impossible not to believe in Sheryl Sandberg. She is extraordinarily likable, as, she notes in “Lean In,” women in power must be. She smiles a lot. She softens phrases by crediting others or using “I think” rather than speaking in declarative sentences. She pauses to guzzle Diet Coke and apply ChapStick while still coming across as the sort of organized person whose purse interior is never sticky.
“I do not like some of the advice that I’m giving in the book. No question.” she says. “Because I don’t think we should have to give that advice. I don’t think we should have to tell women: Say ‘We’ and not ‘I.’ ”
Sandberg is addressing one criticism of “Lean In,” which is that she encourages women to tackle an unfair situation — women hold 14 percent of executive positions in the United States — by playing an unlikable game: Ask for respect, but in a womanly manner. Be eternally pleasant. Suggest that you’re requesting a raise because a superior advised it. Accept compliments: Women demur when they should just say “Thank you.”