Book review: Let’s all ‘Lean In’, together

Lean In1

About the author: Yasmin Desai has worked in a number of startups and currently works at Monkfeet as Head of Business Development. Yasmin is passionate about startups and has a keen interest in supporting women in entrepreneurship. 

This post originally appeared on The Start Up Girl blog.

The critically acclaimed book Lean In by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, is focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can do, more specifically in the workplace and in their careers.

Albeit an informative book that provides a clear framework for getting ahead, unfortunately, Lean In lacks the fundamental element that, collectively, females struggle in the workplace across the board – not just at the top. In my opinion, solving this means starting from the absolute root cause of the gender inequalities we face today, which occur even before birth. The emphasis of the book is placed on getting more women to the top – what the book severely lacks is how to get more women IN, and this is an issue that starts a long way before graduating from school.

Despite this drawback, there are some incredible takeaways from the book that I believe everyone can implement and benefit from – not just females:

  1. Sit at the table: Something I believe that isn’t an issue just for women, but men too, and especially so in the earlier career stages. Taking the choice to “sit at the table” is all about belief in one self and in your own ability. Even if you don’t feel qualified to apply for a new role/sit in a board meeting/ participate in new projects at work, you lose 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. This is all about convincing one self that you should take a risk and go for it. Easier said than done, but once you do, you open more doors and possibilities. Yes, you might get rejected, but that is part of life. When you’ve made the decision to sit at the table, don’t forget to take recognition for your achievement.
  1. Don’t leave before you leave: This chapter was geared toward women who may not advance in their career due to future plans to have children. I believe this applies in more than just one scenario, for instance a medical condition, difficult family circumstances, or perhaps you only plan to work temporarily in your current industry. Never stop looking to advance yourself in your current role. We often let our short sightedness get the best of us. Worst case scenario, you turn down the new job offer/promotion – at least you gave it a shot and you know your worth.
  1. Let’s start talking about it: Let’s Lean In, together. It’s everyone’s issue to make the workplace a more equal world for both women and men. Start conversations and start analysing your environment around you. Is there something that could be changed? What would you implement in your workplace if you knew there were no barriers to achieving your goals? This was perhaps the best piece of advice from the book, but a difficult one to conquer. It starts off with one voice and slowly more and more voices will follow. Women and men: I encourage you to stand up in the workplace when you see something incorrect.

    This doesn’t just apply to gender inequality. It could be bullying, intern’s pay checks, an inside joke about one of your customers. Stop these comments at the beginning before they become bigger issues. Start off by simply saying: ‘It’s not okay’. You may be asked to justify your statement, the thought of which may hold you back from acknowledging that something is wrong. In this case, bring it back to the point that you’re entitled to your opinion and that in your opinion what you’ve witnessed is not okay. No justification required.

4. Don’t be satisfied: Question and challenge the world and environments around you. Don’t hold back from trying to inspire change. Start in small steps, and more importantly, speak up. If you didn’t take a job offer because you felt the environment was sexist and had a lack of opportunities to grow, tell the employer. So much is not improved because of the lack of awareness to the problems that exist. Sometimes all it takes is pointing something out to realise that it needs to be changed.