With all of the attention Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” is getting, it’s probably one of those books you feel like you should read. Except, quite frankly, between all that “leaning in” you’re doing at work and all those responsibilities you’re dividing up at home, reading an actual book calls for something you no longer have: free time.
That’s why we’ve done it for you. Below, we list enough highlights from the Facebook COO’s “sort of feminist manifesto” to get you through a water cooler conversation or some happy hour chatter. How to answer three likely questions to sound like you’ve read the hot book du jour:
Staff writer Jena McGregor teases out the leadership issues in the day’s news.
(Knopf) - Sheryl Sandberg’s book, \"Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,\" comes out on March 11, 2013.
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>>So can you relate to her at all in the book? Sandberg has caught plenty of flak for being a wealthy woman (and we mean really wealthy) trying to talk to others about balancing work and family life. The anecdote about discovering lice in her daughter’s hair while riding on an eBay private jet, for instance, has gotten plenty of airtime as evidence that Sandberg is not in tune with the average working mother’s plight. And the chapter titled “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” in which Sandberg advocates finding a spouse who will split the workload 50-50 at home, leaves something wanting. When you can afford all the household and child-care help you’d ever need, a helpful husband sounds like only part of your fortunate solution.
Still, Sandberg is personally revealing in other ways that make her far more accessible than so many reviewers have let on. She gained 70 pounds in her first pregnancy and had morning sickness the whole nine months. She got married at 24 and was divorced a year later. It took her a year to find a job in Silicon Valley. She’s been the subject of sexist comments, such as the client who wanted to set her up with his son. She’s cried at work (many times, apparently). And throughout her life and career, she confesses to having felt at times like an imposter. She admits, repeatedly, to worrying too much about being liked.
Sandberg may have resources most of us could only dream of, making it hard to identify with some of the passages about work-life balance (a phrase she knocks, thankfully). But for professional women — who are clearly the book’s audience — many of the other revealing personal stories she shares do make her book a relatable and, yes, likeable read.
>>What did you learn? Sandberg’s book is chock-full of demographic, social science and workplace research that feels overly familiar at times. But she also includes a number of surprising studies that make for perfect cocktail party talk, as well as provide inspiration for changing the way we think. For instance, she writes about a 2008 study that found that when girls are reminded of their gender before taking a test — even by simply checking an “M” or an “F” at the start of the exam — they don’t perform as well. Disturbing. And who knew that the U.S. Census Bureau calls it “care” when fathers watch the kids while the mother is at work, yet when mothers do the same it’s simply “parenting”? It also considers mothers the “designated parent” when both mommy and daddy are present in the home.