Sheryl Sandberg’s Nudge: How She Helped Revive an Old Debate

LeanInSheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was released on March 11. That was two months ago, but somehow I feel years behind the Lean In conversation, because since its release, masses of people have weighed in online, in print and on broadcast about what this book means and how they feel about it.

When the book dropped, I enjoyed the debates from afar. Some women thought Sandberg’s account was candid and relatable; others thought she was on another planet, that they could never relate to her because she has millions and they do not.

When a group of women at work planned a Lean In book discussion, I found my way to and purchased a copy. I picked the book up expecting not to see myself in Sandberg’s account, because after all, I don’t have millions either. But that was not the case. By the end of it I was thinking, “Way to go Sheryl, for reigniting an old conversation.”

There were no “Aha” moments here; most of what she writes are things we’ve heard before. But what she did was nudge us to pick this conversation up again, and keep it going. This simple book, which recounts one woman’s experience as a mother who works outside the home, was to me what the gung-ho trainer is to the tired athlete. “You’re tired? Lean in! You’re frustrated? Lean in! You feel stuck? LEAN IN!!!” Lean in, because only quitters lean BACK.

It was by no means perfect. One of my critiques of the book is that she speeds through her career path as if it were boom boom boom. “I was in politics, then I jumped to this company and that company, then to Google and now I’m at Facebook.” It would have been great to read more about the path she took to get to where she is today. Also, with her being a woman in a male-dominated industry, I would have hoped to hear more about the challenges women in the techn industry face.

But her intent was to share her experience, give her thoughts on how women should strive for success in the workplace, and encourage both men and women to do better when it comes to equality in the workplace and equality in the home. And she backs much of her points up with facts – which was a plus. It was a cross between self-help and academic.

Sandberg’s intent was to start a conversation that would hopefully lead to results, and I believe she was successful. Every woman I know who read the book walked away with a to-do list. One said she would make a conscious effort to hire more women onto her team; she works in male-dominated industry. And although she didn’t think she would make it a requirement for her staff to do the same, she had committed to at least bringing it to their attention. Prior to reading the book, it was the norm for her to be the only female in the room, and because that is how it traditionally is in her field, she rarely questioned it.  But Sandberg’s nudge is making her think twice.  

It made me think twice too – about how I view myself, the gender stereotypes that I disagree with but sometimes help to perpetuate. But in addition to shifting my thoughts, it has also moved me to take some actions, too. 

My To-do list:

  • Learn how to do better sitting at the table. You are there for a reason. So instead of listening to the voice in your head that says you’re not competent, or that no one cares about what you have to say, you should remind yourself that you DO bring value.
  • Don’t quit before you quit. Don’t check out of a job because you THINK your future (family) will get in the way of your career and vice versa.
  • Choose the right partner. If you’re involved with someone who you KNOW is not supportive, who you KNOW would not make your life as a woman who works outside the house easier, don’t make that person a life partner. You will regret it if you do.
  • Find a mentor. And when you do, make it a meaningful experience for you both.  

That’s where my nudge took me – What did Sandberg nudge you to do?


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