Book Review: Lean in

leaninI’ve read “Lean in” right after I’ve made a company change. I’ve had to think hard where my career was going after 9 years in a workplace where I loved my work and the people I worked with. I had long discussion with my husband and family. The decision to make the change didn’t come easy. This decision was not only impacting my life but my family’s life as a whole. I started working in an office after working 9 years of working from my home office. The first thing my son asked me when I told him about the possibility was, who was going to take care of them. Even though I always had help with childcare, when I was working out of home, they knew I was there.

I’ve also worked on planning where I wanted to be in 5-10 years. We consider the current need of our children as a priority, making most of the decisions as a family. I’ve thought about my future plans after our children go to college and move out of the house. To be honest, I have never had this much contemplation by myself since I’ve started my career or decided to go back to work after having children. Recently, I came to the realization that my children are becoming more independent and don’t need us that much. I want them to grow as an independent person and I want to be a good example for them to look up, a parent, growing and developing both personally and professionally.

For me, reading lean in validated a lot of important principles to manage a career such as “taking risks, choosing growth, challenging ourselves and asking for promotions. There were also other recommendations such as taking initiatives, creating your own opportunities or making opportunities fitting you, asking for feedback.

The book doesn’t only feed you with tips and recommendations but also makes you think. It encourages you to visualize your ideal work life, career, personal life, health etc. Most importantly, it makes you question why “what you would do if you weren’t afraid”.

In summary, what I deducted from reading “Lean in” and my life experience was more than career advice. It opened my eyes to the fact that:

“Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns.”

We need more Women Leaders in every village, every town, every city and every country. Women’s leadership is not limited to corporate leadership. We need more women in community leadership, spiritual leadership, government leadership as well. This will be achieved by taking down both external and internal obstacles and barriers that prevent women getting to the top.

First, we need major infrastructural changes as well cultural perceptions. We need to have equal pay for women. We need better family/work balance as well as more flexibility for both women and men. We need better education and work opportunities for women. We need better childcare options for working families. We need a society who doesn’t see and think parenting and career /work are contradicting concepts. To make this happen we need more Women Leaders in this world currently run by men. It’s a vicious cycle.

Second, we need support of men as partners, colleagues and leaders. There again, we need a shift in cultural perceptions. Why do we always think it’s perfectly ok for fathers to dedicate themselves to their professional life, sacrificing the family relationship and personal time? I’ve seen male colleagues, who were expected to travel and work more, because they were single or without children. I’ve observed many male coworkers working extensive hours because they knew their wives were taking care of the family. I would think most of these men would have liked to spend more time with their family or by themselves instead of working those extra hours and extensive travel. In my opinion, the shift of this workplace expectation would not only help women but also men.

Not all women (or men) need a career to fulfill them. Not all women (or men) have to go work at an 8-5 job. But we have the choice and we should make best of that choice. We have to eliminate our own internal barriers. We have the right to be as ambitious as men in business. We should stop underestimating ourselves and start moving up and across. Women should understand and internalize that we don’t need to sacrifice from our families to lean in. We can do anything we want as long as we find the balance in our own lives as women/partners/mothers.

For this we need more women leaders. We cannot expect a change with status quo without taking over those “decision making” positions.

My company has recently started a “lean in circle“. I am hoping there won’t be any conflict to the next meeting of the circle.

I highly recommend this book for anyone, who has issues about opportunities available to women and parents, inequality and productivity.

For me, the question still remains: What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

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