Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: women, work, and the will to lead

By Julia Thomas ‘17Staff Writer

“Close your eyes. Imagine what you would do if there were no limits. Now, go do it,” said Sheryl Sandberg on Oct. 28 during a live video conference to Scripps College and many other universities around the world. In a silent auditorium, I sat alongside my fellow Scripps students, momentarily dreaming of the possibilities waiting in the future. However uncertain the future may have seemed then, many of us were united in that brief moment of contemplation. Scripps students tend to embrace the challenge of hard work and support each other in reaching for their goals: in many ways, Scripps functions as a microcosm of the supportive, go-get-em attitude that Sandberg promotes in her Lean In campaign.

In March 2013, Sandberg released her first novel, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” In her book, Sandberg uses personal experiences and anecdotes to discuss the barriers facing women in the work place, and the severe underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the professional world. She attributes this to gender bias, societal structures and women’s tendency to shy away from high-achieving careers. She argues that in order to move toward a more gender equitable society, women must “lean into” their careers and believe in their ability to lead in the work place.

To hear this coming from Sandberg is both inspiring and slightly intimidating, to say the least. Sandberg holds double degrees from Harvard and served as the Chief of Staff of the United States Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton Presidency and for six years as the Vice President of Google’s Global Online Sales and Operations. In August, she was appointed the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, becoming the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board.

However, Sandberg has faced criticism for her novel. Much of the criticism for the novel points at Sandberg’s position as a highly successful, white woman encouraging others to be more ambitious. This criticism is undoubtedly valid, as lower class and non-elite women may not have the opportunity to “lean in” as Sandberg describes. Still, Sandberg’s idea reaches wide as an inspiring movement: she believes men and women should share an equal role in work and parenting. The novel goes beyond success in the work place to a central idea of gender equality, in both the work place and at home. Sandberg’s Lean In movement, following in the wake of the book, encourages women to form support groups based off of shared interest and career goals, which meet to network and share experiences. At Scripps, we see this happening before us, often informally, every day. We are in a place where, as a whole, we have already committed to leaning in.

On Nov. 15, the Scripps College Economics Society will host a book club on Lean In, opening up the discussion on Sandberg’s movement to Scripps students and faculty. Whether or not you choose to read the book, the club welcomes all students to come and participate in a discussion on “leaning in” at Scripps.