by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels
I like to think that I’m one tough, empowered chick, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was not, in fact, leaning in. (Oh, %&*$!) This became apparent as I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. It’s an excellent book that perfectly blends personal stories, research, and suggested solutions. It’s also a real eye-opener.
As I read, I reviewed experiences in my own career. There were times when I did lean in, raising my hand to volunteer to take on a job, forging ahead with problem solving, or asking for that raise. Yay, me!
But there were also instances when I pulled back with some noble idea of preserving group harmony or people’s egos. There were opportunities I didn’t apply for because I feared I might have a hard time balancing everything or because I wasn’t 100 percent qualified—even though a man will apply if he thinks he meets 60 percent of the requirements, according to a study Sandberg points out.
How many women do that? Meanwhile, egos are still inflated, the group harmony is resilient, someone else is doing the job…and I’m still not 100 percent qualified. The balance issues I feared aren’t an issue after all, and the opportunity for more money and advancement has passed me by. The game becomes about catching up instead of flying ahead.
Along with reading Lean In, I’ve also been avidly following the conversation about it in the media (Lean in! No, lean out! Gah!). What really irked me was the critique that the book is “blaming the victim” because it pays attention to things women do to hold themselves back as much as it points out the ingrained biases held by men and women alike. Here’s how I saw it: The one thing you have control over is yourself, so fix that and don’t fret about the rest. The lovely unintended consequence is that perceptions and stereotypes might start to change when there is enough evidence to the contrary: when more women manage to be successful and liked and when men are asked how they balance work and family as frequently as women are.
After a few chapters, I actually got up off the couch in the middle of a good book so I could get a pen and paper. Watch out, world, because I took notes:
- I’m going to sit at the table.
- I’m going to reach for opportunities—and I’m going to “shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that—and I’ll learn by doing it.'”
- If I have a question, my hand is staying up until I get an answer.
- I’m going to put my foot on the gas pedal and keep it there.
I highly recommend the book, but for the five-minute version, check out Sandberg’s TED Talk.
Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is Seducing the Single Lady, a historical romance based on Beyoncé songs. Learn more at mayarodale.com