Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.
Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.
In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.
Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.
Praise for Lean In (#1 National Bestseller)
“Honest and brave . . . The new manifesto for women in the workplace.”
“Lean In is an inauguration more than a last word, and an occasion for celebration . . . Many, many women, young and old, elite and otherwise, will find it prescriptive, refreshing, and perhaps even revolutionary.”
—Anna Holmes, The New Yorker
“A landmark manifesto . . . Fifty years after The Feminine Mystique . . . Sandberg addresses 21st-century issues that never entered Betty Friedan’s wildest dreams . . . Lean In will be an influential book. It will open the eyes of women who grew up thinking that feminism was ancient history, who recoil at the word but walk heedlessly through the doors it opened. And it will encourage those women to persevere in their professional lives.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Lean In poses a set of ambitious challenges to women: to create the lives we want, to be leaders in our work, to be partners in our homes, and to be champions of other women. Sheryl provides pragmatic advice on how women in the twenty-first century can meet these challenges. I hope women—and men—of my generation will read this book to help us build the lives we want to lead and the world we want to live in.”
“I approached it wearing two hats—one as CEO [and] the other as the parent of a nine-year-old daughter. In both capacities, I feel that Lean In is a must read.”
—Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, in Fortune
“Inspirational . . . Sandberg offers concrete suggestions on how to make our work and home life more satisfying and successful.”
—Kare Anderson, Forbes
“What Sandberg offers is a view that shows 20-somethings that choices and tradeoffs surely exist, but that the ‘old normal’ of blunting ambition so that you can fit in one category or another does not have to be the way it is. And that each of us has a say in what comes next. And that includes men.”
—Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, The Atlantic
“Sheryl Sandberg has done a tremendous service with this work. It offers a vital and sharp message, for women and men. We need great leaders in key seats spread throughout all sectors of society, and we simply cannot afford to lose 50 percent of the smartest, most capable people from competing for those seats. Provocative, practical, and inspired!”
—Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
“Sandberg recounts her own experiences and dilemmas with great honesty, making it easy for women across cultures and geographies to identify with her. She spells out much that is well known about the problems working women face, but rarely articulated . . . In every word she writes, Sandberg’s authenticity shines through.”
—Shweta Punj, Business Today
“Lively, entertaining, urgent, and yes, even courageous . . . Lean In is both a radical read and incredibly accessible . . . While it’s obvious that women have much to gain from reading Sandberg’s book, so do men—perhaps even more so . . . Lean In is the beginning of an important and long-overdue conversation in the United States—but it will only be a national conversation, and one that endures, if men do their part and lean in, too.”
—Michael Cohen, The Guardian
“Grade: A . . . a rallying cry to working women . . . Lean In is the most cogent piece of writing I’ve encountered that speaks to the internal and institutional forces that can trip up an ambitious woman, whether she has a baby on board or not . . . The wisdom she shares here is a gift that all women (and all partners who support them, in the workplace or at home) should give themselves.”
—Meeta Agrawal, Entertainment Weekly
“If you loved Sheryl Sandberg’s incredible TEDTalk on why we have too few women leaders, or simply believe as I do that we need equality in the boardroom, then this book is for you. As Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has firsthand experience of why having more women in leadership roles is good for business as well as society. Lean In is essential reading for anyone interested in righting the injustice of this inequality.”
—Sir Richard Branson, chairman, the Virgin Group
“Sandberg’s message matters deeply: it has a shot at bringing about a cultural change that would improve the lives of all women.”
—Judith Warner, TIME
“A muscular manifesto on the gender inequities of the professional world . . . Sandberg is making a disruptive, crucial observation that puts her very much in line with Friedan: All is not just in the gendered world, and we should be talking urgently about how to make it better.”
—Rebecca Traister, Los Angeles Times
“No one who reads this book will ever doubt that Sandberg herself has the will to lead, not to mention the requisite commitment, intelligence, and ferocious work ethic . . . Sandberg is not just tough, however. She also comes across as compassionate, funny, honest, and likable . . . Most important, she is willing to draw the curtain aside on her own insecurities . . . Lean In is full of gems, slogans that ambitious women would do well to pin up on their wall . . . I nodded in recognition at so much of what Sandberg recounts, page after page.”
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“Pivotal . . . It’s probably not an overstatement to say Sandberg is embarking on the most ambitious mission to reboot feminism and reframe discussions of gender since the launch of Ms. magazine in 1971. The thing is, she’s in a pretty good position to pull it off.”
—Belinda Luscombe, TIME
“Important . . . This is a great moment for all of us—women and men—to acknowledge that the current male-dominated model of success isn’t working for women, and it’s not working for men, either . . . The world needs women to redefine success beyond money and power. We need a third metric, based on our well-being, our health, our ability to unplug and recharge and renew ourselves, and to find joy in both our job and the rest of our life.”
—Arianna Huffington, Forbes
“I’ll bet most [women] will be thrilled by Lean In. I suspect at least a few men will read this book and think, Oh no, they’re starting to catch on.”
—Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair
“A lucidly written, well-argued, and unabashedly feminist take on women and work, replete with examples from the author’s life.”
—Julia Klein, USA Today
“Having read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I can testify that it addresses internalized oppression, opposes the external barriers that create it, and urges women to support each other to fight both. It argues not only for women’s equality in the workplace, but men’s equality in home-care and child-rearing. Even its critics are making a deep if inadvertent point: Only in women is success viewed as a barrier to giving advice.”
“Lean In has plenty for feminists and all women to applaud—and learn from . . . I’m glad Sandberg is speaking out. I’m glad she’s using her platform to help give women the tools to succeed, and to encourage all of us to go out and get what we want. The real strength of Lean In is in its Rosie the Riveter 2.0 message: ‘You can do it! Here’s how.’ . . . A crucial call to action.”
—Jill Filipovic, The Guardian
“A call to live fearlessly . . . Lean In is a memoir, a self-help book, a career management guide, and a feminist manifesto . . . Let’s hope this is a book that is read as much as talked about.”
—Marion Winik, Newsday
“Equality is a project everybody must work on together. For too long, achieving equality has been seen as women’s burden . . . By knowing this story, men will become more sophisticated thinkers and actors when it comes to gender . . . Lean In contains a whole lot for men to think seriously about . . . Men just need to read it.”
—Patrick Thibodeau, CIO Magazine
“Unapologetic . . . Sandberg is using her power and influence to try and improve the world . . . Sandberg’s most powerful rhetorical device in the book is a saturation of stats that are sometimes shocking and sometimes reverberating—but always the kind that make you reevaluate what’s going on around us.”
—Nicholas Carlson, Business Insider
“Sandberg’s voice is modest, humorous, warm, and enthusiastic . . . You don’t have to be climbing the corporate ladder—or, as Sandberg would call it, the jungle gym—to find her message useful. Don’t marry a man who isn’t egalitarian? Good plan! Be more confident? Excellent advice . . . I’m buying a copy of Lean In for my daughter and one for my stepdaughter, too.”
—Katha Pollitt, The Nation
“Nuanced, persuasive, and brave . . . All of us—women and men alike—who care about creating a more equitable America ought to take her message to heart.”
—Jane Eisner, The Forward
“After reading Lean In and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk . . . I believe we—together—need to drive a fundamental culture change and it is up to us as leaders to make this change happen. What we have been doing hasn’t worked, and it is time to adjust . . . We have an opportunity to make a tremendous difference, and in so doing benefit our people, out culture, our company, and, just maybe, the world.”
—John Chambers, CEO, Cisco
“Tremendously relevant . . . necessary . . . Lean In is more about being bold than it is about being female . . . Sandberg can reach beyond boundaries of age, success level, and gender to include all of those who have the privilege of playing on the jungle gym of corporations, academia, and government.”
—Sharon Poczter, Forbes
“A rallying cry for both genders to continue the hard work of previous generations toward a more equitable division of voice, power, and leadership . . . Told with candor and filled with a mix of anecdote and annotated fact, Lean In inspires women to find their passion, pursue it with gusto, and ‘lean in’ to leadership roles in the workplace and the world.”
—Linda Stankard, BookPage
“I plan to buy Lean In for our three grown daughters and daughter-in-law . . . In our family, and in families across the country, may the conversations begin.”
—Connie Schultz, Washington Post
“I’m guessing that the average boardroom doesn’t have much better gender equality than a team of cave hunters attacking a woolly mammoth 30,000 years ago. So what gives? A provocative answer comes from Sheryl Sandberg, who has written a smart book that attributes the gender gap, in part, to chauvinism and corporate obstacles—but also, in part, to women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities . . . there is something real and important in what she says.”
—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
“Giving women the tools and skills they need to take themselves and society—worldwide—to the next level.”
—Leslie L. Kossoff, Technorati.com
“Compelling . . . Sandberg writes with sophistication and thoughtful reflection . . . a book that has a powerful message but that is also full of personal vulnerability and first-hand anecdotes, packed with statistics and footnoted studies that back her points.”
—Susan Adams, Forbes
“Her ideas are reasonable, thoughtful—and necessary.”
—Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast
“When was the last time anybody talked this much about a women’s place in the world, period? Sandberg’s Lean In is opening up the dialogue—and, in true Silicon Valley fashion, she’s made it scalable . . . It’s put words to what we’d long felt but couldn’t quite articulate; the insecurities, the self-doubt, the fear that causes us to keep our hands down. Because, whether we’d recognized it or not, each of us . . . had been grappling with precisely what Sandberg aims to conquer . . . She’s also managed to bridge a gap that has mystified many an activist before her: reaching women who both self-identify as feminists, and those who don’t.”
—Jessica Bennett, NYMag.com
“This is a book every young woman needs . . . I see her as an inspiration.”
—Colleen Leahey, Fortune
“A lucidly written, well-argued and unabashedly feminist take on women and work, replete with examples from the author’s life. It draws on the ideas of no less an icon than Gloria Steinem, a Sandberg friend, and on recent research highlighting the double binds women face as they negotiate the corridors of power.”
—Julia M. Klein, USA Today
“To get a sense of how I reacted to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, look no further than the stars and exclamation points that fill the margins of my review copy . . . Among its merits is the way Sandberg doesn’t shy away from describing her own struggles to take risks at work, to ask for what she wants, to negotiate, to find an equal partner.”
—Alexandra Chang, Wired
“Sheryl provides practical suggestions for managing and overcoming the challenges that arise on the ‘jungle gym’ of career advancement. I nodded my head in agreement and laughed out loud as I read these pages. Lean In is a superb, witty, candid, and meaningful read for women (and men) of all generations.”
—Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state
“To tackle society’s most pressing problems we need to unleash the leadership of both women and men. Lean In shows us the path and is an absolutely invaluable resource for the next generation of leaders and those who support them.”
—Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO, Teach for America
“For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. She has a remarkable intelligence that can cut through complex processes and find solutions to the hardest problems. Lean In combines Sheryl’s ability to synthesize information with her understanding of how to get the best out of people. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers—especially men—to become better and more effective leaders.”
—Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Facebook
“Sheryl is a unique business leader because of her versatility and breadth. She has the two traits that are common in every successful leader I have known: curiosity and determination. Sheryl brings all of her insight to Lean In, an important new book that companies can use to get the most out of their talent. With her ideas and actions, Sheryl will help to define leadership in the years to come.”
—Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric
“The key to opening some of life’s most difficult doors is already in our hands. Sheryl’s book reminds us that we can reach within ourselves to achieve greatness.”
1. What does “lean in” mean? Why do you think women need to be urged to lean in?
2. The first three words in the book are “I got pregnant.” What does this signal about the kind of business book Lean In will be?
3. When Sandberg says, “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality” (p. 7), what does she mean? Have you found this statement to be accurate?
4. Why is “ambitious” often considered a derogatory word when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man?
5. In chapter 2, Sandberg discusses the impostor syndrome: feeling like a fraud, fearing discovery with each success. Why do women feel this way more often than men do? What causes the gender gap?
6. Sandberg believes that there are times when you can reach for opportunities even if you are not sure you are quite ready to take them on—and then learn by doing. Have you ever tried this? What have you tried? What was the result?
7. What did you learn from the anecdote on page 36, about keeping your hand up?
8. Why did Sandberg respond so negatively to being named the fifth most powerful woman in the world?
9. When negotiating, Sandberg tells women to use the word “we” rather than “I.” Why does the choice of pronoun make such a difference?
10. On page 48, Sandberg says, “I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations.” How do you feel about her advice?
11. What’s your take on Sandberg’s suggestion that we think of the path to a satisfying career as a jungle gym rather than a ladder?
12. Sandberg argues that taking risks can be important in building a career. How have you approached risk-taking in your life?
13. Sandberg argues that mentorship relationships rarely happen from asking strangers to mentor you, but rather from an opportunity to engage with someone in a more substantive way. How has mentorship worked in your own experience?
14. People who believe that they speak “the truth” and not “their truth” can be very silencing of others, Sandberg says on page 79. What does she mean by this?
15. When considering employment after motherhood, Sandberg suggests that women shift the calculations and measure the current cost of child care against their salary ten years from now. Why is this a more effective perspective than just considering current costs? If you’re a parent, would this change your attitude toward employment and money?
16. In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of “having it all,” or even “doing it all,” and points to a poster on the wall at Facebook as a good motto: “Done is better than perfect.” (p. 125) What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find contentment?
17. Sandberg and her husband have different viewpoints about parenting: She worries about taking too much time away from their kids, while he’s proud of the time he does spend with them. Would it help women to adopt an attitude more like his?
18. In chapter 10, Sandberg discusses how the term “feminist” has taken on negative connotations. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?
19. Discuss this assertion: “Staying quiet and fitting in may have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path. But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead, we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women back, and find solutions” (pp. 146–47).
20. In the book’s final chapter, Sandberg talks about the need to work together to create equality—to allow women to thrive in the workplace, and to allow men to participate proudly in the home and child rearing. What steps can you take right now to begin to make this happen?