When I attended Marie Claire At Work Live (Part 1 & Part 2), Nishma Robb referenced Sheryl Sandberg’s groundbreaking book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead, and asked the audience if they had read it. I promptly put my hand straight up, expecting everyone else to do the same, but was surprised to see that only half the room had read the book! In a room full of women who are there to progress at work and further their careers, I had assumed that everyone would be as intimately familiar with her work, and as passionate about it as I am! So I won’t assume you’ve read the book, or even heard of Sheryl and her amazing Ted Talks. I’ll start from the beginning.
I’m trying to remember how I even came across Lean In in the first place. According to iBooks I bought it from the iTunes store in June 2013; this would have been approximately 8 months after I had joined a new project and taken on a more intense role at work, so I’m sure I knew I needed some form of support in developing my management style. I can only imagine that it was Stylist Magazine that recommended the book, as I’ve taken some great tips from them over the years, and I can’t think of how else I would have come across it. I hadn’t even heard of Sheryl Sandberg before then, nor did I even know about her now viral Ted Talk, which I only watched after I read the book. I recommend you do it the other way around, if you haven’t done both of these already!
As you can see from the video, Sheryl shares her personal experience of being a woman in a leadership role, and why she believes she has so few female counterparts at her level. She also shares her top 3 tips for getting ahead at work:
- Sit at the table
- Make sure your partner is your partner
- Don’t leave before you leave
I remember reading the book, engrossed in it, absorbing every word, shocked at how much it all resonated with me! It felt like an awakening! I felt empowered with every page, emboldened with this challenge to ‘lean in’, sit at the table, if not for me, then for the women after me. It was as if I had been given a quest, and all I needed was a noble steed! But I worked on the railway, so I decided to focus my energy to delivering my project to the best of my abilities instead. And to ensure I was paid appropriately for it.
It was Sheryl’s words that inspired me to ask for a pay rise for the first time in my professional life. I had never even considered it before! I just thought, as many women do, that if I kept working really hard and performing really well, that i would get rewarded commensurately. I didn’t know anything about gender pay gaps, or negotiating for a better deal, I was blissfully ignorant. I also had no idea that I was about to create a lot of trouble for myself at work. (But that’s a story for another day!)
As a follow up to her original Ted Talk, Sheryl took part in a Q&A in December 2013, which I only watched recently, but still stands true over 2 years later.
Looking back I can see that Sheryl’s words were a catalyst for all the change and challenges that have come my way in the 3 years since I read her book – and I wish I had read it sooner. I wish I could have read something like this before I ever started working – imagine how much further we would be in our careers if we all leaned in a little earlier?