The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Friday, April 5, 2013

Publisher: W H Allen
Format: Hardback
Rating: 5/5

I'm not really sure where to start...This book was so very enlightening and inspiring. It was just what I needed to read during this time in my life.

There's no denying it, being a woman in the workplace is difficult (even more so when you add race into the equation. There's nothing quite like going for an interview and seeing your interviewer's face falter before plastering on the fake smile when they realise the candidate, who on paper seems white or Asian at a push, is in fact black. But that's a story for another day). However, with the likes of Beyonce and Taylor Swift squirming and back peddling with talk of 'extreme feminism' and what not, I think Lean In is a must read for everyone to get an idea of what women are battling with on a daily basis. This book is helpful for anyone at any stage in their career. The standout points for me:

Career jungle gym rather than career ladder
This notion really resonates with the modern working world where the idea of a job for life is no longer the norm. Although, from personal experience, it appears that some people haven't quite moved with the times. Even though I graduated two and a half years ago, during my current job search I am classed as wanting to 'change careers' when in actuality I am just trying to do what I have always wanted to do. How can a twenty four year old be changing careers? I've only just started! Which leads me to the next standout point..

18 month plan + life goals

Sheryl Sandberg advises you need to figure out what to do whilst striving for your lifetime goals, which needn't be career orientated at all. You might want to travel the world, have a family, or even write a musical (ahem). I would love to hammer this point home to our sixth formers because here in the UK (perhaps depending on which type of school you went to) you are supposed to go to university with a pretty clear idea of what career you intend on pursuing in the end. So, at eighteen, you start a degree in medicine or law or dentistry, rather than exploring various disciplines before getting down to business at graduate school. I have always been opposed to this pressure placed on young adults to make such important, complex decisions at such a young age, and I vaguely remember giving a passionate speech about it during my GCSE English oral exam. At the end of the day, the system leaves you feeling like a failure in your twenties when you realise that, actually, you do not want to be a lawyer or a marketing assistant or whatever your degree was in, and by jove they make it damn hard for you to change.

So, I appreciate that Sheryl Sandberg brought it home that you need to have short and long term goals. I like to think of the whole shebang like the London underground during rush hour: you squeeze into a bursting carriage (someone might make a space for you or even help you on if you're lucky) regardless of where the tube is actually heading because you know you need to keep moving. You can change in two or three stops and get onto another line- no biggie. You can even go back to the start. Either way, you'll eventually get to your destination.

The nature of mentors
This was really interesting. I am guilty of doing what Sheryl Sandberg says many young people have  done to her. For some reason, we feel like we need a mentor, therefore we need to hunt one down and fire a million (vague) questions at them. However, Sheryl Sandberg says a 'mentor' will pick their 'mentee' without needing to add such labels. A senior figure will naturally gravitate towards someone who they see has potential - not the other way around. This really hit home for me. So, I look forward to the day when I finally get a job somewhere (!) and someone sees it fit to take an interest in me and my career, 

Obviously, there's so much more packed into this little book but these points really struck a chord with me. One more thing I will say is something Sheryl Sandberg touched on towards the end: even broaching the topic of gender at work can be a minefield in the legal/HR sense. Whilst reading Lean In,  I asked a family member (who works in a male dominated, finance environment) if there were any women on the desk these days. He said yes, one. I repeated what Sheryl Sandberg said about senior men helping out junior women. He said no way Jose, that's a tribunal case waiting to happen. Now, I have absolutely no idea how this can be solved but as Sheryl Sandberg says, it is an issue that really has to be solves as it is a huge stumbling block for the advancement of women. What is going to happen to that one woman on the desk? There are no other women there to guide her and all the men are (perhaps quite rightly) scared of a sexual harassment case. 

Overall, as you can see, I found this book extremely helpful. It's not a recipe book for success or anything ( I would be dubious of anybody who offered such a work) but there are some useful tips and tools and, most importantly, an inside look at what is really going on in the workplace. 


  1. I'm so with you on how ridiculous it is that people are supposed to decide so young what it is they want to do for the rest of their lives! I've heard tons about this book and I might have to give it a read, I'm sure it will be interesting at least.

    1. I think it's something schools need to address- or careers advisors if they still exist in schools. I'm sure they were phasing them out when I was in sixth form. Yeah I would definitely recommend it as I think there's something in it for everybody.


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