I couldn’t have a blog on breaking the glass ceiling without sharing my thoughts on The New York Times’ Best Seller, ‘Lean In,’ by Sheryl Sandberg!
I loved it. Sandberg’s book spoke to me and my situation at the time, fighting gender bias for working women. After reading the book, I decided I had a girl crush on Sheryl Sandberg.
Can you imagine running a company the size of Facebook?! Criticisms or not, she is unique and badass for her accomplishments. I can’t help but admire a woman who has succeeded in making it to the top of the corporate ladder.
The book highlights situations I’ve experienced in my profession. Some biases aren’t blatantly obvious in the workplace until a woman hits a certain level in their career. Many leaders may be ok with women in subordinate positions, but subconsciously not ok when women are at the top of the food chain. We are often dismissed as not capable, too emotional, or just plain wrong.
I faced many of these biases while I was fighting through a hostile work environment at my workplace. I was ready to quit my job when I started listening to ‘Lean In’ and the book convinced me to stay and fight the good fight.
Here are the concepts she discusses in the book that resonated with me:
Having a seat at the table – it is critical, as women, that we step up and have a seat at the table. I have been the only woman in many meetings with high ranking male executives. Why am I always the only woman? The percentages are off. I know many smart and capable leaders who are women.
Women tend to be less confident and fall back. I’ve seen it. We must bring awareness to this imbalance. This concept encouraged me to stay at my company despite the discrimination I was facing simply to contribute to the cause of righting the percentages of women in decision making positions. I hope that the more exposure male executives have with female executives, the better the environment it will create in the future for female executives.
Male allies – Sandberg talks about needing to have male allies. I could not agree with this statement more. As a woman, you may not have the level of authority in decision-makers’ eyes. This may not even be a conscious bias. Most of the time it is a subconscious bias that men don’t recognize they are doing.
Little things like cutting off a woman when she is speaking or bigger things like leaving a female executive out of the decision-making process entirely. These things happen. It’s important to have male allies that recognize this behavior and correct the other males.
One time I was in a room, having a conversation about the direction the business should go. One high ranking male tried to cut me off and say this wasn’t the conversation we were having. It was one of his many dismissive actions towards me throughout my tenure there. Luckily the CEO was in the room and corrected the other male and said, “Robin is speaking, she has something important to say, let’s hear her out.” That is the role of the ally. To recognize and correct the behavior of others.
Women on their own may not get the opportunity to make their case. It’s a double-edged sword – women can get aggressive to get their message heard, but then they are emotional or unreasonable. Or they can not have their message heard and be submissive. This is why male allies are so important in the workplace.
Criticisms – Sandberg tries to address the criticisms she’s received in the book. She mentions if a woman’s goals are to stay at home and raise the family that is perfectly OK. Much of this book is not speaking to that audience. Sheryl Sandburg is speaking to someone like me. Someone who defines their life based on their career. Someone who so badly wants to break the glass ceiling and prove that she can hang on a man’s level. Someone who is at the executive level who has seen firsthand the atrocities that come with being a woman at the top. If those are not the burning desires that consume you at night or they are, but you have an even higher priority of staying home for your children this book may not apply to you. But they do apply to me.
Powerful words can inspire powerful actions. That is what this book was for me, words that inspired me to hang in there and to blaze the trail for the next generation of women in the workplace.