The subject of women in the workplace is something that has always interested me, especially coming from a career where for the first 8 years I never worked with another female web developer – all my female colleagues were either PAs/account managers or graphic designers. I’m really lucky now working for a team that is almost 50% women (and really awesome women at that).
This book is written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg and in it she talks about the struggles she’s had as a woman in a high-powered career. The book is chock-full of statistics to back up the claims that she was making, but also balanced with personal anecdotes. I appreciated the statistics and references as I can imagine that some people would think some of the facts were exaggerated (sadly not).
“How can I do better?” “What am I doing that I don’t know?” “What am I not doing that I don’t see?” These questions can lead to so many benefits. And believe me, the truth hurts. Even when I have solicited feedback, any judgement can feel harsh. But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.
As you can imagine, there were many quotes in this book that stood out as things that should be remembered and repeated until we get to a point where women are treated equally and fairly in all areas of work.
Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.
One of the things that bothered me slightly about the book was that it was definitely aimed at people in more high-flying careers. Understandable, since that is the life that Sheryl has lived, but some of it did feel a bit alien to me, and a lot of the tips that she gave for dealing with problems would just be unrealistic for most people.
Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.
Only a short book, I’d recommend this to anyone who finds this topic interesting. Written 5 years ago, sadly I don’t think a huge amount has changed, but if we keep talking about it, we’ll get there eventually.