As a woman in her thirties, time is very limited and as a result I am not often able to keep up with one of my favorite pass times, reading. In order to fill this void in my life, I have been listening to audiobooks and podcasts for about 4 years. This new medium has definitely helped keep me informed and entertained, but it will never take the place of reading. Reading a book is almost ritualistic for me. I desire the book and once I have it, I live with the book until I know that I will have enough time to devote to it. Reading then becomes a visceral experience. I love the smell of a library book, the crisp clean pages, the way a book feels in my hands or pressed against my chest as I walk around with it from one favorite reading nook to another. If it isn’t obvious yet, I think reading is sexy.
Last night I finished reading a book that rocked my world for about a week. It was a very sexy book about women, work and the will to lead. Yup, you’ve guessed it, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I enjoyed how relatable she was in the tone of her writing, and appreciated the mixture of anecdote and hard data she crafted together to support the book’s themes. The general message is that while woman have made great strides toward equality especially in American society, the battle is not yet won. Overt discrimination against women is not the problem. The problem now lies in an unconscious discrimination based on hard to shake gender roles we prescribe to, as well as impossibly to achieve self-imposed expectations, are what now keep women from reaching for and achieving higher leadership roles in the work place. Sheryl Sandberg states that this is not just a problem for women, but a global issue with global repercussions. As it happened during the time of Betty Friedman’s The Feminine Mystique, the U.S. is still experiencing a brain drain by having highly educated women return to the home full time, or by continuing to hold men and women to different standards in the work place.
To be honest, I picked the book up out of curiosity, never thinking that I would actually relate to it on such a personal level. After all, I have never followed a traditional career path. I have balanced my life between whatever my “day job” is at the time and my career in dance. I also have never identified myself as a feminist, and yes, I have believed and prescribed to gender roles because I think they still serve a purpose in society. In spite of all this, these were the Lean In takeaways that have, as I so scientifically stated earlier, rocked my world.
- The notion of the corporate ladder is outdated. The job market is now more like a corporate jungle gym. Employees hold skills that can cross departments as well as exceed expectations. All experience is valuable.
- The Heidi/Howard study which proved that even when presented with the exact same resume, the Howard resume will be judged more favorably than the Heidi resume based on pre-existing gender beliefs. Ambitious and powerful women are seen as unnatural and therefore evil.
- Work Life Balance holds women back because we place such high expectations of ourselves both at home and at work. Sheryl Sandberg says that sometimes it is better to get a thing done rather than get a thing perfect.
- Women start to take themselves out of the game early in their career especially when they know that they will want to someday start a family. (This one really got to me.)
- We should try to cultivate a work culture that is based on the well-being of employees by providing appropriate family leave, flexible schedules and not subconsciously perpetuate the idea of the super executive who prioritizes work above everything else.
- The word feminist is not an insult.
I can go on and on, but this is the type of sexy book men and woman should experience and ponder on their own. That’s right, I called it a sexy book. And why shouldn’t it be sexy to love reading and learning?
By: Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
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