Leaning In With Sheryl Sandberg

Editor's Notebook

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By Jane Eisner

Published March 06, 2013, issue of March 15, 2013.
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It’s so tempting to deride Sheryl Sandberg for her new, self-appointed role as the leader of a social movement to bring more gender equality to the workplace.

She must be one of the richest, most successful working mothers on the planet, and in her new book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” her attempts to identify with ordinary working moms seem comical at times.

To illustrate that she, too, has found herself in unexpected situations as a parent, she describes a time when she discovered her children had head lice. What parent can’t relate? Except that Sandberg was on her way to a Silicon Valley business conference. On a corporate jet. Owned by the CEO of eBay.

Nah.

Most of us are not able to personally thank Gloria Steinem, Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey for encouraging us to write a book. And most of us don’t have a massive marketing apparatus ready to sell our work (the publication date is March 11) all the while urging readers to create Lean In Circles and join the Lean In Community that, not coincidentally, is hosted by Facebook, where Sandberg is the chief operating officer.

Yes, it’s tempting to deride Sheryl Sandberg, and already many have, because her central message — that the movement for equality in the workplace is stalled partly because women are not ambitious and determined enough to “lean in” to their careers — is uncomfortable and controversial. But many of those sniping about her haven’t actually read the book. I have. And I found it surprisingly nuanced, persuasive and brave.

She uses her gilded bully pulpit to say the things that others are not able or willing to say.

It’s a message that should especially resonate in the organized Jewish community, where women remain poorly represented in leadership, are routinely paid less than their male counterparts, and are generally discounted — and discount themselves — as thought leaders on the national stage.


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