Stop Attacking Sheryl Sandberg: 10 Things I Love About ‘Lean In’

The pads of my fingertips are wearing off this week. I reply to every single Sheryl Sandberg hater on my Facebook feed and ask them one simple question: Have you read her book? Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is fantastic, and I’ll tell you why.

The criticism baffles me. Apparently, she’s too rich to offer advice on being successful. She has household help, so she couldn’t possibly inspire our gender. She went to Harvard, so she can’t know how to help a state school grad (forget about a high school drop out). See where I’m going? This is nonsense. Do we read advice from Warren Buffet on money and finance? Do we devour books by Dr. Phil McGraw? Does it matter if these men have personal assistants and fancy houses? What about the bestselling diet book Shred by Dr. Ian Smith? He went to Harvard; he’s famous and well-off. I do not hear moaning and groaning about the above men’s qualifications to advise us.

I hereby declare the Sheryl Sandberg debate bull hockey.

Here are three reasons why people–mostly women, BTW–are ripping Sheryl Sandberg apart. First, hating on a working woman is, sadly, a popular thing to do. Second, attacking a book and creating a controversy generates web traffic for bloggers. Third, women love to hate on women and it has to stop. Just one example: I recently wrote a blog post about my extreme morning sickness in regards to Kate Middleton. I suffered through my ordeal–really suffered–and I got hate comments. A few days later, my husband wrote the exact same story about my morning sickness, and he received warm, encouraging words. WOMEN: WHAT ARE WE DOING TO EACH OTHER?

All I ask, in the case of Sheryl Sandberg, is that people read the damn book before they post diatribes like this one: “I may need to take a moment to reflect on all of the hoopla surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s not so innovative ideas. What is so impressive about an Ivy grad getting an Ivy grad position at a top company? NOTHING.” I respectfully disagree. A woman from any background in a powerful top position glows impressively.

Sheryl should proudly step up and take her rightful place as role model. I haven’t been this excited about a feminist book since I read Susan Faludi’s Backlash in college. Why Sheryl? She’s awesome, flawed, inspiring and brilliant. Here are the top 10 things I love in the book Lean In:

1. I relate to her. I haven’t worked at a full-time job since 1999, and I’m currently in yoga teacher training. But I still like her and would love if she’d be my friend. She embodies hard work and drive–but with flaws and vulnerabilities that are just like mine. For example, we both entered doomed marriages when we were 23. Learning from our mistakes, we chose more compatible partners the second time.

2. She offers plenty of a-ha moments. “Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”

3. Mentors don’t matter that much. Women have a hard time finding mentors in managerial positions because of the lack of women. That shouldn’t stop us from forging relationships with people–at or above our positions–for help. Mentorship is reciprocal questioning and answering, and everyone will be invested in and learn from that. (What a huge relief.)

4. Despite what you might have read, she encourages all of the choices women make. “There are many powerful reasons to exit the workforce. Being a stay-at-home parent is a wonderful, and often necessary, choice for many people. Not every parent needs, wants or should be expected to work outside the home. In addition, we do not control all of the factors that influence us, including the health of our children. Plus, many people welcome the opportunity to get out of the rat race. No one should pass judgment on these highly personal decisions. I fully support any man or woman who dedicates his or her life to raising the next generation. It is important and demanding and joyful work.”

5. The advice is unparalleled. I entered the workforce at age 21 without even wanting kids but planning for them anyway. I aimed to be a freelancer before I even started–limiting my salary options dramatically. Here’s what Sheryl has to say about that: “Anyone lucky enough to have options should keep them open. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That’s the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.” Where could I be–where could I go now–if I didn’t see childrearing as a career-halt?

6. Let your partner help you. “Whenever a married woman asks me for advice on coparenting with a husband, I tell her to let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants to as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.”

7. Equality around the household equals a better sex life. “Couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex.” She cites a study. I have anecdotal evidence to support this assertion.

8. Women can’t do it all. She dropped her daughter off at preschool and then had to take a flight to the East Coast to give a TEDTalk. Her little girl was upset that Sheryl wouldn’t be home for bedtime, and it tore them both apart. Sheryl added it to her speech because other women were going through the same thing. “Women and men [need to] drop the guilt trip, even as the minutes tick away, The secret is there is no secret–just do… the best you can with what you’ve got.”

9. Little girls aren’t bossy. We should call them “future leaders” instead.

10. Women, start leaning in to other women. “The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.”

What have you read about this book? If you had a negative reaction, was I able to get you to reconsider your position?

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  1. by vanessa

    On March 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Not really…
    I believe that with most things one should read more about something or someone before criticizing. That does not always mean reading their book, because if anything, it is biased and it is about what the person would like to think of herself (not necessarily reflecting who she really is and what she actually does). Fact is, I agree that working from home poses a challenge for a company (it requires good management, periodical meetings face-to-face, etc) because of many factors like less productivity, less interaction with the group, less team work..but she has her own nursery set in her office…that is not fair play. That sends a terrible message of her being bossy instead of leader..because she can do things her employees cannot. That is changing a culture of a company (let us not forget, a internet related company)without any adaptation/reintegration period.
    it is not only about being a woman and saying bad things about another woman, is disagreeing with someone professionally independently of gender.
    I, as a woman, former full-time job professional and now a sahm, prefer to admire a professional that shows good leadership, good numbers, maintaining a relatively happy staff than to admire a woman that is inconsistent with her ideas, disregarding years of yahoo flexible work culture(but at the same time having her child at the office). I refuse to think that us women need to be supportive just for the gender fight…And most of all, I refuse to consider respecting her for her self-help books.

  2. by vanessa

    On March 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    ok, my mistake…very embarrassing..hahahha
    i thought you were talking about marissa mayer…sorry my mind was on the other subject…

  3. by vanessa

    On March 16, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Oh, my mistake..ops..i though you were talking about marissa mayer, ceo of yahoo…embarrassing…
    ahhahhaha i should be the one paying attention to what i reas…ops, sorry

  4. by Amanda

    On March 18, 2013 at 8:49 am

    I had not heard of the book or the haters, but after your post it sounds like a great book that I would love to read. It is true that women ned to support one another more and stop tearing each other down. I’ve been plagued by mommy guilt for missing a PTA meeting or for just being too tired to read one more book. The reality of it is I do the best I can. I am a whole person.

  5. by Jill

    On March 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you for pointing out how men are not subjected to this kind of criticism for giving advice! It’s ridiculous! Your column is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

  6. by Marie-Annick

    On April 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I have read the book and it Think you are 100 % percent right.

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