Summary: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead By Sheryl Sandberg

In Sheryl Sandberg’s now famous Tedtalk, she discussed how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. She spoke to women about the issues they face in the workplace and about how they could benefit themselves and their careers by taking risks and accepting challenges, while forgetting about the dangerous myth of “having it all” and setting boundaries for themselves. These ideas are further expounded upon in her book, Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead Book Cover

Throughout the book, Sandberg shares her own struggles and triumphs that she faced on the way to becoming a member of Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and also one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She talks about things that really worked for her, as well as things that held her back.

In an effort to cast a light on the kinds of blocks women face and how they can make changes for themselves Sandberg describes her own struggles while working for Google when she was pregnant. She tells a story of how she brought the idea of designated parking for expectant mothers to the attention to the owners in order to display how sometimes all it takes is for a woman at the top to speak up to make the path easier for women that will follow after them.

Sandberg also acknowledges that in America we are leaps and bounds ahead of other countries who treat women as property, and writes, “We are centuries ahead of the unacceptable treatment of women in these countries. But knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.”

Lean in urges women to continue the revolution that was started many years ago. It motivates women to continue to demand more fair treatment and more accessibility. The book places high importance and focus on the idea that women hold themselves back in the workplace. While she acknowledges that there are many outside boundaries to progress, she also writes about ways, such as lacking self-confidence, not raising hands and speaking up, and, as the titular line of the book notes, how women often pull back when they should be leaning in. She believes that getting rid of these internal boundaries will empower women and give them the confidence to push through the outer boundaries even harder.

The goal of the book is to help women rise to the top of their career field or to achieve any personal goal that they are trying to reach for. Sandberg urges women to be ambitious in any pursuit, be it in-home work, or work outside of the home.

Sections cover topics, such as The Ambition gap, What would you do if you weren’t afraid, The myth of doing it all, Make your partner a real partner, Success and likeability, Seek and speak your truth, and Are you my mentor?

The book is designed to empower women so that they may take the initiative in their own lives and reach their goals by putting aside stigmas and cultural taboos, and turning off the inside voice that demands them to be likeable, subdued, un-ambitious, and overly filtered. Sandberg also notes how many “power” words are applied differently to men and to women. For example, while ambitious men are “assertive”, women are “bossy.”

In Sheryl Sandberg’s latest Lean In campaign, one that shares the principals of her book, a new commercial asks viewers to ban the word “Bossy” for its negative connotations and its limiting implications that it assigns to women. Sandberg notes how this word is a “squasher” for women as it labels their ambitious behavior in a negative light.

Setting boundaries is major talking point in this book as well. In the chapter entitled The Myth of doing it All” Sandberg writes that the coining of the phrase “having it all” “was perhaps the greatest trap ever set for women.” She points out that this expectation that women can “have it all” without making sacrifices and choices is unique to women. No notes that one asks fathers, who also juggle multiple responsibilities of family, work, home life, and personal time how they “handle it all.”

In addition to Sandberg’s discussion of women in the workplace, she also advises women to “make their partners real partners” outside of work, in their home lives. Lean in calls critical attention to the idea that in order for women to succeed in the workplace they need partners who are fully supportive of their careers and who do an equal share of child care and household chores in order for them to have the time it takes to advance in the workplace.

Another crucial aspect of role sharing that is highlighted is the fact that gender stereotypes are self-fulfilling and harmful to women who are looking to advance. While women are perceived as more committed to family, they are too often penalized for this in the workplace by bosses who believe they will not live up to expectations and responsibilities. The same can be said for men who are perceived as being more committed to work. Those who choose to be stay- at -home fathers are often treated as outsiders in play groups and child and parent functions.

The Kindle edition of Lean In contains extra content, such as characters and people, organizations, memorable quotes from the text, notes for parents, awards received, citations, a reading group guide, and additional reading suggestions of texts with similar subject matter.

Lean in wraps up with a discussion about how women can move forward towards true equality. Sandberg acknowledges that the fastest way to achieve this equality is for women to move their way to the top of every industry. Sandberg urges women to lead by example. She calls for a new approach for the new generation; for a working together attitude between men and women as well as a working together attitude amongst women themselves. Sandberg writes that what she wishes most of all is that these social norms that hold us back will one day be gone and every individual will be able to chase their passions-to “truly lean in-all the way.”


  • Chris Darling

    Chris is a busy mom of two, who loves to tinker with computers and read in her free time. Her knowledge of what it takes to start up a business especially businesses that operate on the internet has helped many people from around the world. Chris often shares her experience as an online entrepreneur and business coach, speaking at events all over about how she created multiple successful businesses and profitable websites. She also offers advice on how people can build their own business website or blog for very little money, while still maintaining quality content. [email protected] Darling Chris

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