I finally read it, just as all the backlash was coming out about how we need to “lean back.” I really enjoyed it, and I think that like almost anything that becomes as popular as this book, it was misconstrued a bit. (Hence the “lean back” response to the book.)
Yes, it’s all stuff we “know” but I think it’s worth hearing again as a reminder. We know that women purely don’t function emotionally the same way as men and that allows us to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. Namely, thinking we owe everything to our place of employment or our families. Now I don’t have a family of my own so I can’t imagine the stress of trying to leave your child behind every morning and then returning home late at night with only a few moments to be with them. But I do know the feeling of over committing yourself between your professional and personal life. I fight almost daily with the fear of disappointing someone. If I decide I need to start doing more for myself it ends up only being partially about me.
Case and point, I’ve just started horseback riding again. It was my passion growing up, I had a horse and loved spending time at the barn. Now that I’m settled into my life I found an opportunity to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center and take lessons. I’m so happy to have this opportunity, but I can see the volunteering getting in the way of some of the joy of just being there. Helping plan a big Kentucky Derby fundraiser, assisting with advice on other fundraisers and so on. Then balancing that with my professional life and outside of that the professional development and networking I’m participating in. And I’ll tell you what I’ve almost never done, asked to change things around. I just make everyone else’s schedule work for me. This is one of the first points that Sheryl makes in her book.
Women think that asking to change their schedule up a bit will cost them too much professionally, so they miss picking the kids up from school, or getting home on time for a party or family time. Granted, there are places of employment where you would be punished for asking, but that’s what she’s encouraging us to change or at least have a conversation about.
I really valued how she set the book up with experiences from her life (which in my opinion is quite atypical, but I think if you look hard enough you’ll find some similarities with your own life, maybe just not on as grand a scale.)
What I really took away from this book is something so simple, something we learn in pre-school. Be kind, be empathetic and speak your truth.
Be kind: If you’re in a position of authority or not, just be kind. Help someone out at work. WOMEN: be kind to one another! I sometimes think the biggest struggle is the one against ourselves (which Sheryl also addresses). We need to be kind to one another, but also realize that just because she’s a women doesn’t mean she needs to be your friend/confidante. Just like all men aren’t best buds going golfing every weekend. We set our selves up for failure either being too competitive and catty with each other or assuming we all need to be kindred sisters out to fight the man.
Be empathetic: Everyone is on a different journey and you have no idea what it is like for them. All you can do is empathize and see if there’s any form of assistance or help you can give them.
Speak Your Truth: If you think you deserve the raise – go ask for it! Be prepared, logical and composed and go request it. Not “because I’m a woman and I think you’re treating me unfairly” the whole point of this movement (yes the Feminist movement is still happening, and I’m proud to call myself a feminist) is to forget if your male or female and be considered for who you are as a human being and what you offer. So speak your truth, ask if you can come in at 7 and leave at 4. If you don’t ask yourself what your needs are and then convey them to those that need to hear them you’re setting yourself up to fail.
This book isn’t meant to make every woman who reads it the next Sheryl Sandberg or Hillary Clinton or Gloria Steinem, it’s meant to be a reminder to you that you can live the life you want. You can ask for things you need, or make a decision that’s right for you even if you think you’ll get flack.
So, all in all, I really enjoyed this book. I think it’s the perfect reminder for women (and men) of what we’re up against sometimes without even knowing it. It’s also a reminder that although the glass ceiling may be broken in some places as long as we’re “shocked” that there’s a Female CEO who’s pregnant when she took a new job, we’ve still got work to do.