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Littler Books cover of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Summary

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Book Summary, Notes, and Quotes

Sheryl Sandberg

3.3 minutes to read
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What it's about in a one sentence summary:

Former Meta/Facebook COO provides solutions for battling inequality and empowering women to rise to the top.

Bullet Point Summary, Notes, and Quotes

  1. There has been progress in gender equality, but we still have a lot of work to do.
  2. In 1970, women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned in similar jobs. In 2010, it was still only 77 cents.
  3. Research shows both men and women discriminate against women when assessing performance and potential of equal employees.
  4. Inequality lingers at home -- raising children is still seen primarily as a woman's job.
    1. 46% of men expect their spouses to pause their careers to raise children.
  5. Women are alarmingly absent from leadership roles. Only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, despite women earning 57% of undergraduate and 60% of master's degrees in the U.S.
  6. Leadership ambition gap is a major factor in inequality in leadership roles. Gender stereotypes discourage women's ambition. Women are expected not to be career-oriented, and are labeled "bossy" if they are, and society/media tell women they'll have to choose between career and family, which results in less career commitment.
    1. Studies of Yale/Harvard alumni shows that 20 years after graduating, only 50% of women are still employed full-time vs 90% of men.
  7. We must stop treating discussions of inequality as complaining or demanding special treatment. Open discussion raises awareness and encourages more people to address the issue.
  8. Studies show that women tend to suffer from self-doubt more than men.
    1. Men tend to be overly confident, overestimate their own skills, credit successes to their own skills, and blame failures on external factors.
    2. Women tend to judge themselves more harshly than reality, credit successes to luck, and blame failures on their own flaws.
    3. Women tend to be more affected by impostor syndrome (feeling success is undeserved or illegitimate).
    4. We need to acknowledge the insecurity women are facing, and encourage and support women.
  9. Women must lean in to better their careers, don't sit back.
    1. Self-doubt causes women to miss opportunities they see themselves as unqualified for. Seize opportunities, don't wait for the perfect ones.
    2. To gain confidence, sometimes you need to fake it until you make it.
  10. The career landscape today is not like ladders (linear) anymore, but jungle gyms with multiple ways to the top.
  11. Define your long-term goal (dreams that guide what work you care about) and short-term goals (areas of improvement).
  12. Evaluate career opportunities based on growth potential -- it is the most important factor.
  13. Gender biases and stereotypes are still prevalent. Ambitious and decisive men are praised while such women are seen as unlikeable. However, trying to fit stereotypes by being less assertive impedes careers, thus women face a lose-lose situation.
    1. A 2003 study gave one group a case study of a successful entrepreneur named Heidi. An identical case study with an entrepreneur named Howard was given to a second group. Students respected Heidi and Howard equally, but found Heidi less likable.
    2. The author had a demeaning encounter as a congressional page when Tip O'Neill, an American politician, patronizingly patted her on the head and asked if she was a "pom-pom girl," implying she was there to cheer on the men.
  14. When negotiating, women must carefully balance assertiveness with "feminine" traits and overcome biases just to get fair treatment.
  15. Authentic and honest communication is essential at work. Leaders should elicit genuine feedback and show appreciation for them when given.
  16. Feedback should be authentic and appropriate, with consideration for people's feelings.
    1. Make "I" statements (e.g., β€œI feel/believe that…”). Avoid direct accusations (e.g., β€œYou're wrong”).
  17. Mentors are crucial for women's career advancement, but it's more difficult for women to find mentors than men.
    1. Male leaders are often uncomfortable mentoring young women out of fear of misinterpretation of the relationship, and women leaders are rare.
    2. Exceptional performances and occasional well-prepared questions can help establish a relationship with a mentor. Do not ask β€œWill you be my mentor?” without previous rapport. Attract, don't accost.
  18. Equality at home is important for women's careers.
    1. Women are usually the "designated parent" -- the person who does most of the childcare.
    2. Research shows 60% of educated women stopped working mainly because of their husbands.
    3. Research shows mothers spend 40% more time on childcare and 30% more time on chores than fathers.
    4. Laws often prevent paternity leaves to be longer than maternity leaves, thus deepening the inequality.
    5. Men are often penalized in the business world for prioritizing family over career.
    6. Husbands' lack of participation drives women from the workforce.
    7. The mother should get the father involved and share childcare and housework with the father. Be patient if the father does the work incorrectly at first.
  19. Women often damage careers by declining opportunities before having children, assuming a future of an impossible work-family balance. This leaves them in worse positions when balancing career and childcare after the baby comes, since the less rewarding career seems not worth returning to after maternity leave.
  20. Ambitiously lean in and pursue every career opportunity. Don't compromise professional goals for family duties.
  21. Companies should focus on results rather than time spent working.
  22. No one can do it all. Find your priorities and work on being sustainable and fulfilling instead of perfect.
    1. Set boundaries at work, delegate (if possible) chores and childcare at home.
    2. Research shows delegating childcare does not negatively affect children's development.
    3. Tina Fey says the rudest question people regularly ask women but not men is, β€œHow do you do it all?”, which assumes only women need to balance family and career.
  23. Women must support each other, but this hasn't always happened:
    1. The "queen bee" phenomenon describes how organizations would typically permit only a single woman to reach senior leadership status. Feeling threatened by the presence of other women, this woman would often deliberately obstruct the advancement of her women colleagues.
    2. The first female Navy submarine officer said while the male crew respected her, their wives resented her.
    3. Marissa Mayer faced intense scrutiny when she became Yahoo's CEO in her third trimester. Stay-at-home moms often judge career-focused women.
  24. As more women lean into their careers, we reshape the power dynamics in our world, opening doors for all.

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