Gini Dietrich

Lean In: Inspiring, Empowering, and Why You Should Read It

By: Gini Dietrich | August 29, 2013 | 
165

Lean In- Inspiring, Empowering, and Why You Should Read ItBy Gini Dietrich

Alert! Alert! Alert!

This blog post is going to make some of you angry.

I read “Lean In” and I wholeheartedly disagree with the criticism the book has received. My guess is most of the critics haven’t read the book or they wouldn’t have made the arguments they did. Which kind of sucks (like spin sucks), but I also understand we live in an age where long-form content is becoming less and less…consumed (I hate that word, but can’t think of a better one).

Content, of course, has to be written and if you can criticize a book on the topic without having to read it, I guess more power to you.

I think that is exactly what has happened. Not with all of the criticism, but with a gross majority of it.

Heidi Sullivan, the senior vice president of digital marketing for Cision, and I were talking about it last week and she said, “I felt inspired and empowered after I read it.”

I did, too. Let’s talk about why.

The Leadership Ambition Gap

The interesting thing about all the buzz you hear about the book is about the concept of how we should lean in, but the truth is, it’s only about half of one chapter.

I run a business. Most of my team are women. Some have kids. Some do not. What I have found in the eight years I’ve been running a business is women DO lean away from promotions or bigger jobs when they think they might get married or they think they might have children or they think they might stay home with kids…someday.

The concept of “leaning in” is to go after your dreams. Have the ambition to want a leadership position. Go for that promotion. Do what you want with your career until the time has come to make a different decision.

It’s a Jungle Gym

Which leads me to it’s a jungle gym, not a ladder.

Mitch Joel talks about this concept in Ctl Alt Delete, too. Many of us think we have to make a decision about the rest of our lives when we’re 18 and then we get stuck in jobs that followed our degrees and we hate our lives.

By the time you figure out what you’ve been doing for 10 or 15 or 20 years is terrible, you have responsibilities so you stick with it.

But here’s the thing, you don’t HAVE to do that. You also don’t have to shy away from a promotion or a bigger job right now because you might have a family in five years. When you think about it that way, it’s the most ridiculous and illogical thing ever. Yet, many, many women do this.

The way to where you’re going is not a straight ladder. You’re going to hustle across the jungle gym…and that’s okay!

Sit at the Table

While you’re hustling across the jungle gym, though, find a way to sit at the table.

She tells a story in the book about how, when she began a new job, she was invited to a big meeting. Because she was new to the organization and she didn’t yet know the protocol, she arrived in the conference room and took a seat in one of the extra chairs that was not at the table, but towards the back of the room in a corner.

During the meeting, she listened, she took notes, but she didn’t speak. At the end, the big, big boss asked her what she thought and she faltered a little bit, saying she didn’t yet have an opinion because she had just started.

Later, her pulled her aside and told her not only did he hire her to hear her opinions, she needed to take a seat at the actual table.

You Don’t Have to Be a Man

Sit at the actual table, spread yourself out by sticking out your elbows, and take up as much room as you can without making the person sitting next to you uncomfortable is some advice she gives when it comes to how men and women behave differently.

But she also doesn’t argue that we have to behave like men. She points out some differences and provides some insight, but overall, she supports different styles in the workplace.

It’s here where she talks about her friend, Marissa Mayer, who was taken to task in the media for taking only two weeks for maternity leave. She says,

So many people said she’s undoing women’s equality, but she’s not. If she required everyone at Yahoo! to take only two weeks for maternity, that would be undoing women’s equality. But she did what she thought was best for her, her family, and her job.

In fact, Mayer has since doubled the length of time for maternity leave and began to offer paternity leave for her employees.

The point here is women’s equality is about making the choices that are best for us. If you want to take two weeks or 12 months maternity leave, that is entirely up to you. If you want to be the CEO of a Fortune 10 company or work inside the home, that is up to you.

We have the choice and it doesn’t have to be what our male counterparts would do or what society thinks we should do.

What Was So Inspiring

But what I really, really loved about the book is this wasn’t about Sheryl Sandberg and her privileged life, like so many of the critics have proclaimed.

This was about the way women behave, the things we do in the workplace and at home, the way society thinks we should behave, and the way we treat one another.

A few additional things I thought were really interesting:

  • In 1975, our mothers who worked at home spent 11 hours per week on direct childcare (feeding, bathing, reading). Today, mothers spend 11 hours per week on direct childcare, even if we work outside of the home. But we feel guilty it isn’t enough because society now says we have to be helicopter parents – arranging playdates, spending three hours a night on homework, going to 16 different activities. What happened to, “Go outside and play?” like our mothers made us do?
  • Of the 22 women who are CEOs of major corporations, one is single, one is divorced, and 20 are married. The 20 who are married have extremely supportive spouses. The point here is “having it all” is making sure you have someone who supports you completely.
  • Women make up more than half of the world’s population, but because we often fight one another instead of working together, we don’t have nearly half the power. Can you imagine what would happen if we all worked together toward a common goal?
  • Women don’t learn how to negotiate. Either we take the first offer and don’t try for anything more or we settle for something we know won’t work. After I read that, I made a promise to myself that, every time we sign a new client, I will negotiate the contract. It’s not easy, but I keep asking myself, “What would a guy do in this situation?”
  • If women had jobs they loved, they more than likely would return to work after maternity leave. Like we talked about in What the Opt-Out Generation Means Longer Term, too many women leave their jobs because they think it’s cheaper right now to not have to pay for childcare. But what they fail to realize is they’re also losing the years of investment they made in their education and in their careers to that point, not to mention the years not working.
  • Many women (myself included) relate success to being liked. I remember when my Vistage Chair asked me a very important question. He said, “Would you rather be liked and not get your business where you want it to go or would you rather be respected and actually grow this thing?” Of course, I want to be liked, but being liked does not equate success.

Mostly what I loved about the book is I see so much of myself in many of the concepts she discusses. Yes, I took some risk and started a business. Yes, I have an intense drive. Yes, I am competitive.  Yes, I am goal-oriented.

But I also do a lot of the things so many of us do…and it’s holding me back.

It’s also holding you back.

Read the Book

Every, single woman who earns a paycheck in any form needs to read this book.

If you work from home and have a handful of clients – clients you have to negotiate rates with every so often – or you work in a Fortune 500 organization and are trying to find your way, this book is for you.

If you make your living editing or sewing or baking or watching children or writing or are practicing law or are a teacher or are a doctor or run a small business or are an entrepreneur or are on the corporate ladder on your way to the executive suite, this book is for you.

If you work inside the home and ever hire contractors to help you out, this book is for you.

This book isn’t about privilege or what some of us have that others don’t. It’s about being able to achieve anything we want. It’s about knowing when to lean in, but also when to lean out. It’s about deciding what your definition of having it all means…not what the rest of us want it to mean.

It’s about truly making the choices our mothers and grandmothers fought so hard to let us have.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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165 responses to “Lean In: Inspiring, Empowering, and Why You Should Read It”

  1. CrazyPens30 says:

    ginidietrich SpinSucks Loving this post; want to read the book!

  2. LynetteYoung says:

    I have to say, I was ‘raised’ with all men early in my career so I have natrually accquired a lot of mannerisms that would be considered masculine. When sitting at a conference table I never sit at the head seat – unless it’s my meeting, then heaven help you if you are in my seat. I choose the second seat to the right of the head – it’s the position where most would turn to while speaking but leaves me enough room to spread out. Reading that bit in the book (about always sitting AT the table) was very validating.
    It wasn’t until almost 13 years into my career where I worked at a place (also my last place of employment before going solo) where it was mainly women co-workers and management. I was shocked by the behavior and games ‘playing’ for favor for one of our only male teammates – and he was pretty far down the line of power. Crazy. (It was at a record / entertainment company and the drugs in the conference rooms was another shocker…)
    While I used to be gender blind in a workplace, I now see (from my experience) that women *can* be neutral about it but *some* men cannot. I’m going to put this out here, but older white men in management positions have the most difficult time removing the gender piece. Not all – but of the offenders, they fit this demographic the most. Women have always been the worst when dealing with other women in my 26 years in business. Clients, customers, employees… No difference.
    Funny, now I see I work with – and seek out – women clients.

    • ginidietrich says:

      LynetteYoung I thought the story she told about meeting Tip O’Neill is very telling to what you’re saying here. I find that a lot too…they call me honey or sweetie or kid (that one bugs me the most) and pat my head like I”m a cute little thing they’d like as a granddaughter. Not all, but a good majority. I just smile sweetly and then kill them with my brain.

      • LynetteYoung says:

        I’ve been known to call them ‘sweetie’ back. With a smile. Mainly because in my early 20s, with only men to use as role models, I didn’t know any different.
        Now I do it just to be a pain in the backside and call then on the carpet. Granted that happens a lot less in my early 40s than it did two decades ago.

      • susancellura says:

        ginidietrich LynetteYoung I still get called “sweetheart”, by my boss who is nine years younger than me. Blerg.

    • ginidietrich says:

      LynetteYoung Oh…and the drugs in the conference room?? OMG

      • LynetteYoung says:

        ginidietrich Oh yeah. Big gorgeous glass topped coffee tables with about a pound of coke. Good times… good times… (Not for me mind you). I however did have an unlimited account to tap into petty cash and we would run through $2k a night a the bars and clubs. This was in the height of the Napster run when record companies cried they were bankrupt because of it.
        I should write a book… or at least a blog post series. I’m out of NDA now.

  3. _jeneroux says:

    Be inspired, lean in, and ignore critics who haven’t read the book
    http://t.co/pbTuUdSkHq via ginidietrich

  4. katskrieger says:

    Okay, you got me. I will read it. 🙂 Very inspired by this post. I know I have definitely held myself back a lot in the past. The new job has been a step in the right direction for me. 🙂

    • ginidietrich says:

      katskrieger It’s pretty interesting to read it and realize you do some of the things she talks about. I consider myself a pretty strong woman and deal mostly with men so I was shocked to find things I do that are inherently female.

  5. I love the Taoist portion of this post about not being stuck unless we choose being stuck. I have a finance degree. I never would of thought in college that would take me to being in Arnold’s Trailer on a movie set, Missile Factories, Computer Chip Plants, Oil Refineries, Back lots of movie companies, working on life saving medical devices, and the development of hydrogen powered cars and then eventually advertising/marketing including being a Spin Sucks Crazy.

    That is the best part of this post. 
    As for the book’s criticism my issue is I don’t like Sheryl, which you know. The book might be great but she represents to me the shifty weaselly side of business. And if equality is what you want I have to treat her just like the men I dislike who screw employees or main street or the taxpayer with Spin and Deceit. (see Lewis Smith former CEO of Bank America or the Walton Family of Walmart and their upper management) but as seen with Bill Gates you can go from being a corporate sleazebag to a seemingly good person. So she can be redeemed! 8)

    So I am curious does the book convince women can be as cut throat as men? or need to be and it is ok? Because it seems like that is pitch.

    • ginidietrich says:

      Howie Goldfarb The book isn’t about Sheryl Sandberg, though. The book is about statistics and research and about how far (or not) we’ve come in women’s equality. It doesn’t teach you to be cutthroat. It doesn’t teach you to be anything. It only inspires you to do what YOU want to do, to make the choices YOU want to make, and to quit letting society decide your path for you.

  6. bdorman264 says:

    I used to be a man….until I said ‘I do’……..
    Somehow I became ‘old school’ not necessarily by choice, it just seemed to happen. 30 years with the same firm, 30 years married to a stay-at home mom. I know looking at it from this side, my wife wishes she had developed some marketable skill sets she could put to use. She would be an excellent interior designer or a CSI, but that doesn’t float her boat. 
    Yes, I am in a white, middle-class male dominated so the ‘women’ success stories I have seen are somewhat limited. However, my good friend’s wife is the CEO of the Heart of Florida Hospital and the CEO of Lakeland Regional Medical Center sits on the YMCA board with me and they are both very pleasant, but fair and not afraid to make a decision. They knew what they wanted and went for it. They did create their space at the table in a way that showed they weren’t afraid to role up their sleeves.
    Maybe because women haven’t created enough opportunities for themselves, but I see it’s a small minority of any people who are willing to step up and assume a leadership role. 
    Good critique, but I expected no less because I know you are smart like that. I can tell you the Rays sure like David DeJesus, I hope they can keep him…:).

    • ginidietrich says:

      bdorman264 I agree with you a small majority of anyone is willing to take a leadership role. Very important perspective. What this book is about is how women truly do have choices and we get to decide what’s best for us, not society or our bosses or our families.

      • JoeCardillo says:

        ginidietrich bdorman264 One thing that I’ve seen in the workplace is men wonder, why don’t women speak up more, go for promotions, exert leadership, etc… 
        That’s one of those less obvious things that is about the ecosystem, you can’t just point fingers and say these people should have done X or Y. Women in STEM fields, for example, have been underrepresented for so long that it’s hugely important that schools focus on opening minds and leveling the field. There’s a lot of power in seeing people that you recognize doing amazing work. 
        (good recent article on continuing difficulty of that – http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130823/news/708239943/)

  7. leaderswest says:

    Hi Gini, I read Lean In with serious apprehension after reading through the negative reviews and I really loved this book. Of course I’m not the target audience, but I thought that the perspective that she gave of the societal and business pressures that women face in the workplace was powerful and important. And I also thought that her fearlessness to solicit and receive feedback was pretty inspiring and added a lot to the richness of her insight. Thanks for writing this – I hope it inspires more people to read the book.

  8. JoeCardillo says:

    I’ll buy the book. It does sound interesting. 
    I grew up appreciating strong women, and still do. There are some great people here on SS that will probably offer similar views to me, so I’ll just chime in with a small perspective from the startup corner of the world…
    I do see change, and it’s gratifying. It’s about 50/50 men & women where I work. I don’t know if it’s something that our co-founders explicitly thought about when they put together the company, but they seem mostly focused on getting the best people possible for each area. When my boss hired me I told her outright that one of the things I wanted to do was help shape a culture where we focused on the quality of someone’s ideas and their potential, and not just external obvious factors (like skill set), and especially welcome people who aren’t traditionally part of the tech eco-system (same boys club problem as exists elsewhere). She’s pretty analytical, and yet she was psyched to hear that I thought about it that way. 
    I have my own ideas about gender identity and culture, which I won’t get into here. But to me the ultimate goal of righting the playing field has never been to make anyone better than anyone else, based on gender identity, creed, color of skin, sexual preference, etc… It has simply been to help people break down internal and external barriers that don’t allow for consideration as an individual. Judge Sheryl Sandberg by the quality of her thought and interaction with others and not by some arbitrary crap like how she looks or doesn’t look (a la that Vogue article you wrote about), or how she represents working mothers or doesn’t represent working women, etc….

    • ginidietrich says:

      JoeCardillo Because of your passion on this topic, I think you’ll really appreciate the book. It’s a pretty easy read, too. She tells some great stories and supports them with facts. 
      I agree with your last paragraph and think you’ll find you’re nodding your head a lot while you read.

      • JoeCardillo says:

        ginidietrich JoeCardillo Great, I appreciate the recommendation and will stop being lazy and just buy it already. 
        It’s funny (sad?) how men (and some women) want to skip to the part where everyone can easily relate and make decisions without history, but it’s a two step thing….acknowledge what has happened in the past, and then give people the opportunity and encouragement to be an individual and make the best decisions for their life.

  9. AmyMccTobin says:

    Thank you Gini, for a review of Lean In that’s actually worth sharing around because ‘IT’S ABOUT THE BOOK,’ not about what people THINK the book is about.  You and I have talked about this before – bravo!!!!
    And I loved the book – because I came up in a VERY male dominated industry, and had a brilliant mentor who didn’t even SEE gender, I learned how to ask for what I want and speak my mind early in my career. My very outspoken grandmother had already given me the foundation.  But I see these behaviors in women all the time – and I tell all of them to read the book!

    • ginidietrich says:

      AmyMccTobin I was pretty shocked to find some of the things I do are inherently female…and not good. Things such as waffling on price when we’re negotiating with a new client. I’ve committed to myself that I will no longer do that. I know how much it costs to do things. I know we’re worth it. If prospects don’t want to pay for it, they can go find a less expensive resource. It’s hard, but the book really opened my eyes to that little flaw of mine.

      • AmyMccTobin says:

        ginidietrich AmyMccTobin Yep, and what I’ve learned in sales & negotiation is that it’s like a muscle – the more you exercise it and gain muscle memory, the easier it is to pull off.    I have a fairly new rule – no more free consultations – I can speak to you by phone or email and get that ‘free’ part done – I’ve written and worked enough that there are PLENTY of references for what I do and how good I am at it. Consultations require I give you advice, and that costs money.

        • ginidietrich says:

          AmyMccTobin GOOD! I don’t think anyone who provides a service should give their time away. You’re right…there is plenty about how you think and what you do on this thing called the Internet.

  10. Word Ninja says:

    Is it OK if I get the book from the library? Is that too non-committal? 
    I recall a conversation at my three-month review with one of the old big wigs at a large non-profit. I hadn’t worked 9-5 in almost 14 years of being home with my kids and freelancing. He asked: Where do you see yourself in the next few years? Without even thinking about my answer, I said, In your chair. He busted out laughing and told me it was a good goal.

    • ginidietrich says:

      Word Ninja HAHAHHAH! I had the same experience. I was all of 24 and the big boss asked me the same question. I answered in the same way and he hired me on the spot. It actually created some animosity among the women in the office because he hired me without talking with them first. Oh yes. That was fun.

  11. XanPearson says:

    Wonderful post, Gini. I loved the book. I, too, disagree with the criticism. While gender disparity does exist in the workplace, I believe women have to take some responsibility for it. We do under-negotiate and lean away. I see it all the time, and have caught myself doing it. We can have it all, and it starts with believing that.

  12. vernette says:

    I’ve started reading this book and I’m only just a little way in but already I can fully endorse this review! It is an execellent read and one EVERY SINGLE WOMAN should read!

  13. I just finished this book last week and I can’t stop pushing it everyone that I know!  I admit that I was completely in denial about women’s issues in the workplace before reading it.  My first job was in a corporation where women outnumbered men from the director position on up.  It created a nice bubble to live in where most policies catered to helping women succeed in their framework.  
    Now it’s like the veil have been lifted and I can see the work that still needs to be done.  Some examples coming more recently than other. *cough, cough*  
    Thank you for a wonderful review that actually shares the knowledge of the book!

    • ginidietrich says:

      HeatherTweedy I was pretty shocked to see myself in some of what she discusses. Like you, I feel like a veil has been lifted. So much so that, last night when I was walking JB, I saw the prettiest little girl I have ever seen. I was compelled to stop and tell her so and then I added, “And I’ll bet you’re really smart, too.” I wouldn’t have added that last part a month ago.

      • ginidietrich That’s awesome.  When my niece was little she was told that she was pretty so much that when her parents tried to punish her she would say “I’m too pretty to get in trouble. “

      • KateNolan says:

        ginidietrich HeatherTweedy About a year ago I read an article about how boys are (often) congratulated for working hard and girls are told that they’re smart, so when a girl can’t do something she assumes it’s because she’s dumb and doesn’t keep trying but the boy thinks he just needs to keep working at it. I think it’s a bit simplistic to say that’s a fact for all kids, but it does make a certain amount of sense. So, next time you can’t say a girl is smart or pretty; you’ll have to ask her her thoughts on leaning in. 😉
        As a parallel, that article made it really hard to have pet names for my nieces. No more pretty-lady, smarty-pants, honey, sweets, etc. This past weekend it was LIttle Monsters which seems far more apropos for their age (six).

        • KateNolan says:

          ginidietrich HeatherTweedy Funny, I mention the article and someone happens to post it on facebook. It’s like the internet circle of life… http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201101/the-trouble-bright-girls

  14. hessiejones says:

    joecardillo ginidietrich I agree Joe! Gini this is inspiring. AmyMccTobin is on my tail to read it #LeanIn

  15. AllieRambles says:

    Lean In is on my reading to do list.  And like many I have heard the negative responses to it so I pushed in further down my list.
    I do work from home.  And you saying that this book is for me too, I will surely place it higher on my list again.  I assumed it was for the woman who didn’t work from home.

    What can women do together?  Earn the right to vote, protect each other (abuse) and other great things.  These women got over the feeling of not being liked for the greater good of women (and society) and we should really take notice to that.
    ~Allie

    • ginidietrich says:

      AllieRambles I think you’ll really like it, Allie. It’s an easy read and you’ll find things in there you can do. Even though you work from home, you negotiate lots of things in your life. Contracts with clients, people to do work on your home, even working with your neighbors to get something accomplished. The thing I don’t like about all the negative criticism is people assume they know what the book is about and they go off on these rants. I promise you, you will read it and feel very empowered.

      • AllieRambles says:

        ginidietrich  Gini, I once read you bog years ago and stopped reading so many blogs for a while (so it wasn’t you it was me, lol).  I am so glad I happen to see you this morning in my Twitter feed.  
        I’ll be grabbing the book soon, thx!

  16. hessiejones says:

    “joecardillo: Finally, a review of Lean In that doesn’t suck. http://t.co/IcGxO1JT7k via ginidietrich”

  17. jolynndeal says:

    You bring up such an excellent point, Gini. So many people jumped on the “here’s my opinion” bandwagon without having read the book.  It’s a reactive approach.  Your post prompted an idea for me. It would be a great interview question.  Ask what they thought of the book (or any highly publicized book) and after they finish their opinion, ask if they read it. Before forming an opinion and launching it publicly, do your homework.  It’s a leadership skill that so few have.

    • ginidietrich says:

      jolynndeal As I made my way through the book, it became pretty apparent most of the criticism I had read had come from someone who had not read the book. I get people are busy and we all have content to create, but to your point, how about doing your homework first?

  18. The negotiating comment hit home for me. I am still amazed at how often men negotiate contracts, quoted rates, etc… It’s as if my numbers are just a starting point. My brain does NOT think like that. As you know ginidietrich and Lindsay Bell-Wheeler from my recent experiences, I’ve had to not only anticipate these negotiations, but I’ve also had to be stronger and more confident on my side of the table. I think it’s important as women to realize that we have the power to also say “no” sometimes and not negotiate. 🙂 
    I haven’t read the book, but I can see from your review and the comments here that it should be on my reading list. Most of our team consists of women — many work-at-home moms. It might even be something we should send to all of them!

    • ginidietrich says:

      TaraGeissinger That’s exactly what I thought about while I wrote that section of this super long blog post. I do the same thing…well, I did. I’ve made a concerted effort not to do that anymore.

      • ginidietrich TaraGeissinger What hit me about the negotiation part is that it’s not just that women aren’t good negotiators, but that it we do push back, it can harm us.  I liked that she admitted that some of our hesitance comes from our emotional intelligence.  We know it’s not going to have the same result for us as it will for men in the long run.  
        That being said, I took my mortgage guy on as a sales mentor and it has been great!  He’s taught me so much about the process and how to not take it personally, etc.  Everyone should get a (good) sales person in their corner!

        • HeatherTweedy ginidietrich TaraGeissinger That’s really interesting Heather! I get what she’s saying. Women who push back aren’t necessarily seen as “great negotiators” but instead run the risk of being labeled “bitchy.” I agree that the emotional aspect plays a huge part too. I can easily slip into save-the-world mode where I feel terribly for people who can’t afford us and guilty about the fact that we charge a premium. 
          That’s why we recognized pretty early on that we needed a New Business Manager to run interference. I love that she is removed *just* enough from the emotional side that she just oozes confidence. Creating that role in our business was one of the best things we’ve done!

  19. sokieny says:

    Well said, Gini. Thanks for inspiring me to put this at the top of my reading list!

  20. ginidietrich says:

    joecardillo Thanks Joe!

  21. ldiomede says:

    Great review Gini.

  22. MelissaFolkKindall says:

    I always worry about this topic for fear of the pendulum swinging too far to the other side! But, your points really resonated with me and I’ll be heading over to Amazon to order the book. I realized I take whatever is offered to me when it comes to ME personally, although I will negotiate on behalf of my company (and family) on a regular basis. I actually went back to school a few years ago to finish my degree (two and half classes to go) because I was told I couldn’t go much further in my career without it. Now that I’m almost done, I was worried about asking for a raise and title change because it seemed pretentious to me! Hello?? That’s why I spent the time and money to do it! Sounds like this book will help me see quite a few things a little differently.

    • ginidietrich says:

      MelissaFolkKindall You know, I’ve thought about that too…the pendulum swing. The biggest thing I took away from the book is not that all of us have to be leading companies or all of us have to work inside the home. It’s that we get to decide what we want to do and we shouldn’t judge others for choosing something differently than we would.

  23. mickeygomez says:

    Thanks, ginidietrich, for a helpful review. I’d heard so much chatter about this book, but your assessment caught my attention and now I’d like to read it. I have to say, the timing could not be better. Some of the advice you pulled to share in your review really hit home and could not be more timely.

  24. susancellura says:

    One thing women need to be prepared for, and you mention it, is that at first some leaders are going to be taken aback. And that is okay. The book is not saying walk in like “Xena: Warrior  Princess”. It’s saying that dig deep, find out what you want and where you want to go , and don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. We are all individuals with different needs, wants, families, friends and dreams. If we just act like lemmings, we all fail.

    • ginidietrich says:

      susancellura I JUST had this experience. Like I said in the post, I’ve decided to stop rolling over and letting the prospects decide how things are going to be done. When I started to negotiate with a prospect on Monday, he walked away. He probably would have been a terrible client.

  25. Unmana says:

    Loved the book, love this post. But what I remember of the “Sit at the table” story (both from the book and the TED talk where she first spoke about this is that this was a story about a few other women (not her) who sat at the back of the room and not at the table, even though Sandberg invited them to. (Maybe there was a personal Sandberg story too that I don’t remember.)
    Anyway, I agree with you about the main points. What struck me about Lean In was the research: so many, many ways equality isn’t nearly real (yet).

    • ginidietrich says:

      Unmana She told that story, too. I chose the other one from her time in the government job to show it’s not an education or religion or race thing…it’s a female thing.

      • Unmana says:

        ginidietrich Unmana Ah, sorry. I guess I remember this one vividly because it made more of an impression on me. 
        Thanks for writing the post! Everyone should read this book.

  26. I haven’t read the book but I want to respond to several things you mentioned in the post:
    1) Fathers still worry about trying to do right by their children and sometimes take jobs/do things they don’t want to do because they think it has to be done and they still wonder how the generations before managed things.
    2) Not all men ask questions or negotiate. Sometimes it is because they were never taught how to do it and sometimes it is because it doesn’t occur to them. Many don’t realize that negotiations aren’t limited to financial matters.
    The point is those aren’t necessarily things that are limited to women. They are people issues.
    I am not trying to minimize the importance or value of the book either because there are still differences. I don’t think men spend as much time worrying about a lot of issues that women do, but there are still plenty of areas where the worrying is mutual.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I was thinking the same thing. It sounds like a book that would be good for men to read, too.

      • ginidietrich says:

        RobBiesenbach Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes I agree and, like I said to faybiz above, I wrote this from my perspective. What I learned, what has changed about my internal dialogue, how shocked I was at some of the things I do (even though I consider myself a feminist), and what I am going to change. Not to discount the guys at all…but the book isn’t really aimed at you. Can you learn something by reading it? Absolutely! But I wrote it for the women here.

    • photo chris says:

      Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Joshua, my husband would agree with you 1000% percent. He’s a terrible negotiator and an amazing father. He works in accounting because, according to him, it’s a stable position. The reason Lean In is so influential for women and the next generation is because it addresses the fact that a LOT of the world is STILL raising girls and boys differently and traditionally, (note, not ALWAYS) GIRLS are taught to focus their work-life around what MAY happen one day, instead of building a full filling life around their dreams and a family around that.  If we ALL looked at a work-life balance the world would be a much stronger place.

      • JoeCardillo says:

        photo chris Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Totally agree. Well said Chris.

      • photo chris I think about it all quite a bit. I spent almost eight years as the so called “sole earner” while my wife stayed home with the kids.
        Part of it was because I couldn’t give birth so some of it had to be that way. 
        But as the father of a daughter I think about how to help her navigate some of these things so that she recognizes her opportunities to make choices.
        FWIW, the way I learned to negotiate came more from time in sales and account management than anything else. When you look at how many things people ask for you start to recognize there is no reason why you can’t do it too.

        • photo chris says:

          Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes photo chris lol! This is how I learned to- from other people asking for things I NEVER would have thought to ask for!

  27. JayDolan says:

    I’m really glad I don’t have to be a man. I’ve been considering being a cat for a while now.
    Seriously though, I’ve been debating about reading this one and now I feel like I need to give it a good read.

  28. SpinSucks says:

    TheresaShafer Thanks Theresa!

  29. SpinSucks says:

    KatieMHutton Morning Katie!

  30. wendyroan says:

    Thank you for this post. Lean In caused me to look at my internal dialogue and how often my belief systems hold me back. I participated in a fascinating and heated multi-generational discussion about Lean In at a dinner party this weekend. One successful business woman and mom of four who still works PT at 70 was offended that women should receive special treatment. She was the anomaly, though. On the other side, a retired man talked about how he blazed a trail to effectively manage and welcome women into a male-dominated defense intelligence workplace.

  31. This is great, Gini, and makes ME want to read it — I imagine I can learn a lot for my own development as well as better understanding gender issues in the workplace.
    I wonder where the launch went wrong, in terms of all the blowback she received? Was it the angle they chose to market the book? As you say, it was just a small slice of the total work. Or was it just more of the usual way society tears down strong women?
    Finally, a small and weird point: I was talking to a woman the other day about power in a male-dominated field and she also mentioned this tactic of spreading out and taking up physical space at the table, with the elbows and such. Interesting, this is something that really annoys me about a lot of men. Everywhere, not just in meetings, but at crowded restaurants and on public transportation, they get all up in your space, leaning far back in their chair, throwing an arm over the back of the seat, spreading out their legs. I wish we could just teach everybody, male and female, to confine themselves to their own personal space and stop invading the space of others!

    • photo chris says:

      RobBiesenbach “confine themselves to their own personal space” LOL!
      True, Rob, True! The reason women are told to do this is because they often “shrink” at meetings and give up their personal space to make room for the (usually) men who are taking it all up. Instead of “staking our own” we “give it up.” It seems like such a small thing but if you’ve ever actually done it you’d be surprised at the change in body language.

    • mickeygomez says:

      RobBiesenbach I have to say, I feel a little silly now for listening to the initial response to the book. What I kept hearing – over and over again – was how easy it is to give other people advice on success when you are in a position of success (financial, position, etc.).
      And to be honest, I wasn’t interested in reading another book about “This is how I succeeded and I’ll give you my advice but really it’s not going to work for you because it’s kind of specific to me and part of it was luck and timing, the end.”
      From ginidietrich’s take, the book has more realistic and useful and research-based ideas and observations than I thought. Some of which I could have really used a couple of months ago, to be honest. Better late than never, I suppose.

    • ginidietrich says:

      RobBiesenbach My thought is they took the “lean in” philosophy (which she talks about her in TED talk) and went with it. After reading it – and realizing that was such a small part of the book – it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would criticize it. They also criticize the fact that she went to Harvard and has had a storied life. Has she had more opportunity than some of us? Sure. But that’s not what the book is about.

  32. This book has been on my “to read” list since I first heard the criticism. In some cases it sounded like sour grapes (former employees). I wanted to decide for myself. Now I just need to find time to read it.
    Ten years ago I was working for a truly miserable woman. She was quite possibly the meanest person I’ve ever met. She was VP of the company and treated all employees (equally) badly. A colleague who’d been there for quite a long time and *hated* her job wouldn’t consider leaving because she’d just married and was looking to have children soon and it wouldn’t be fair to her new employer. Well, so was I. But I left anyway. The way I put it to her is that if an employer hires someone who is of a certain age, the chance of children happening (planned or not) exists – that should have no bearing on the chosen candidate’s ability to do the job. 
    I wish women would stop letting personal life decisions have such a huge influence on professional life decisions and overall health and well-being. (My blood pressure dropped from high to normal levels immediately after leaving that job, even though I didn’t have another position to go to.) And yet, I get why this happens. I’m fairly sure I was laid off because I had the audacity to have a child. And that was after three years of absolutely leaning in.

  33. katierosenberg says:

    ginidietrich It’s good to read your review after all the flack Sandberg received after her publicity tour. I am going to go ahead and read.

    • ginidietrich says:

      katierosenberg As I read, it became pretty clear a lot of the criticism came from people who didn’t read the book.

      • katierosenberg says:

        ginidietrich I am not sure if I am shocked by that or not…

      • ltcassociates says:

        @ginidietrich katierosenberg I think the empirical evidence for that comes from the link you posted to “Lean In” on Amazon. It’s got a 4.4 out of 5.0 rating from 1,241 reviewers.
        “Critics” who had read the book would have– logically– voted with their ratings and knocked the book down to 3 or 2 or 1 stars. But they didn’t, which is either evidence that they hadn’t read the book, criticized without voting, or were in such a complete minority as to be negligible. Take your pick.

  34. ginidietrich says:

    eplastino Do it!

  35. tinashakour says:

    ginidietrich good review. I have found many critics didn’t actually read the book.

    • ginidietrich says:

      tinashakour It’s crazy, isn’t it? Let’s criticize something we haven’t actually read. Because that makes sense.

  36. faybiz says:

    GERT!!! Now I need to read this book… as you are correct… some of what you said REALLY annoyed me and I must see for myself.
    How do you say this:” It’s about deciding what your definition of having it all means…not what the rest of us want it to mean” but say this: “What would a GUY do in this situation???”
    ARGHHHHH
    Why is personal issues only an issue for women when it comes to work place choices?
    I know plenty of GENTS who suffer in jobs (especially in this economy) mainly because they want the reliability of the paycheck and the stability it provides. I know my decision making calculus on my career changed radically the moment I had a family and not just a wife or just myself. 
    While this book is probably aimed at a female audience (correct me if I’m wrong), I’m sure other males on here would agree that these are not mutually exclusive issues. You characterize part of the problem as women in the workplace “fighting” and not working together, but doesn’t thenotion that everyone’s choices should be a-ok and just as valid as everyone else explain that? 
    Women and men often can not understand others’ choices. That’s not unique…
    which gets me to” What happened to, “Go outside and play?” like our mothers made us do?”
    GERT GERT GERT- helicopter parents are in part created for SO MANY reasons. You over simplify with “just go out and play???” If you have an ounce of concern for our kids, you look at the rapid change that has occurred in the last 20-30 years in terms of all the influences in kids’ lives, and like most parents, I say “I can’t believe our kids can’t grow up the way I did.” 
    I can fully understand the point that women are pushed more into the guilt over work/family dichotomy… but so much of that seems self-imposed (or maybe I’m wrong) – its my sense that we have moved more and more towards the idea that whatever works for your family in terms of two-working-parents is A-ok… especially in this economy.
    But I also know that it doesn’t stop the guilt. I just don’t know if I see it coming from “society.”
    This is a discussion that will keep happening until women do not feel guilty about the work/family dichotomy (no matter the source) and men make sure it does not happen.

    • ginidietrich says:

      faybiz My dear Todd, this is a book written about women’s equality. I certainly don’t discount some men face the same things. It was my take on spending 10 hours with a book that I highlighted, read, and re-read…and then thought about for a month before I sat down and wrote 1,500 words. Much love to my male counterparts, Gini

  37. lauraclick says:

    You know, I never really had much of a desire to read the book. But, after attending an event for a new women’s organization in Nashville that will use principles from Lean in a couple of weeks ago (and after reading your review), I have more of an interest in it now. 
    Love the takeaways you mentioned – especially about negotiating. For my first job out of college, I tried negotiating my salary (with a women business owner, mind you!) and the owner wouldn’t budge. I just rolled over and took it. I later realized to never settle on the first offer EVER. When my husband was in law school, I sat in on a seminar at the school about negotiating salary and other things. So helpful. More women need to understand that they can earn more if they just don’t say yes the coming out of the gate.
    All that said, it sounds like the book could be especially useful for me as a business owner. I’ll have to give it a read!

  38. THIS!!!!
    ‘The point here is women’s equality is about making the choices that are best for us’
    That’s all I have to add today friends since any other #petropwer babbling (in my usual charming style) would simply circle back to this fundamental truth.

  39. CommProSuzi says:

    “we often fight one another instead of working together,”
    I am grateful every day to the ladies at the agency where I cut my teeth. It was as if every female executive made a pact to influence the up and comers (I can’t believe I fooled them!) 
    One senior copywriter sat us all down to encourage us to start saving for retirement. 
    Another pulled me aside and talked to me about how to lead without disparaging myself. 
    Others would show compassion and guide or point out the things you were doing that made them take notice. 
    It was a GREAT atmosphere. 
    Sadly, when I tried to return the favor (I encouraged her to pursue her goal of earning a degree in marketing so no one could hang their hat on that missing component when she looked for other jobs. I am such a monster!), she took it the wrong way.  Later, she came to me and said, “I should have gotten my degree. What do I do now?”
    I’m hoping she earns that degree. I’m hoping some media buying firm has snatched her up, because she was BRILLIANT!

  40. I was reading this post, got about a third of the way through and realized immediately that you are dead wrong! I don’t even need to read the rest. I know everything there is to know about the point you are making. 
    In all seriousness, I haven’t read the book and yet all of the criticism seemed very shallow to me. I might have to just pick this puppy up now.

  41. ltcassociates says:

    ginidietrich Alert Alert Alert I’ve seen interviews w/ Sheryl S., but I’m very interested in *your* book review cause I value your opinion.

  42. ginidietrich says:

    robinbroder So many reasons to love you. I find a new one at least weekly.

  43. ginidietrich says:

    AnneIsenhower Thanks Anne! I also received your email…more later.

  44. ginidietrich says:

    MichelleRTaylor Thanks Michelle!

  45. ginidietrich says:

    zodot Thanks Zoe!

    • zodot says:

      ginidietrich Thank YOU! I was excited about the book when it first came out so this convinced me I need to read it even more.

  46. lcinchic says:

    ginidietrich Great piece! I wasn’t interested in Lean In for some of the reasons you mention, but now I’ll check it out.

  47. jillvan says:

    ginidietrich thanks for writing this post, Gini.

  48. LynnewithanE says:

    Totally agree about your assessment of “Lean In”…I felt so empowered after reading it. I could not understand the negative criticism because I spent a majority of the book nodding my head in agreement.  I even recommend it to my friends that are fathers so they can understand the unique perspective their daughters will bring to the business table.

  49. Debra_Ellis says:

    Hi Gini,
    I’m leading with my
    credentials…I read the book shortly after it was released. It didn’t empower
    me. It frustrated me. Throughout the book, there seemed to be a condescending
    undertone that was critical of women that didn’t choose to “lean in” by Sheryl’s
    standards. She says that women should be able to lead the lives they want while
    criticizing the way some choose not to “lean in.”
    I often joke that I had to go to college to learn
    that I was short and women couldn’t do anything they wanted. No one mentioned
    my height or questioned my choices prior to my first year in engineering
    school. I’ve had the privilege of being the only professional female in a
    consulting firm (twice), being the COO of Ballard Designs, founding my own
    firm, AND choosing to downsize so I could spend more time with my children. The
    path hasn’t been easy but it was my path designed by my choices.
    There have been many times that I didn’t “lean in.”
    Every one was a decision on my part. Given the chance, I wouldn’t change that
    decision for most of them. The opportunity to become President of a large
    company was turned down because I wanted the flexibility that came with
    choosing my workload. My takeaway from Sheryl’s book was that I made the wrong
    decision AND I let younger women down in doing so.
    The statistics were interesting but the book as a
    whole didn’t deliver what I was seeking. I wanted a book that I could share
    with my daughter to start a conversation about the real world she’ll enter in a
    few years. I’ll stick with the practical suggestions in “Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead… But
    Gutsy Girls Do” by Kate White.

    • ginidietrich says:

      Debra_Ellis Interesting…I didn’t feel that way at all while reading it. In fact, the “lean in” part of the book was so short, I felt like maybe there wasn’t enough about it. In your example of turning down the president job, I read the book totally different…you chose to “lean out,” in that case, to have the flexibility. And my takeaway from the book was that’s okay and we shouldn’t judge you for making that decision.

      • Debra_Ellis says:

        ginidietrich
        Having different
        perspectives is a good thing. I’m glad that you were inspired and hope that you
        can leverage your inspiration into a better future.
        My issue is primarily with the disconnect between
        what is said and what is used as examples. While Sheryl said that we shouldn’t
        judge the choices others made, there were many things in the book that felt
        judgmental to me. Our perception is defined by our experiences. The example of
        women from the Treasury Department sitting along the wall reminded me of
        personal experiences where women challenged me because they thought I should
        have handled things differently.
        The book doesn’t give us many details about the
        meeting other than to say the invited guests sat at the table but Secretary
        Geithner’s team chose to sit off to the side. They were there as the Secretary’s
        staff, not invited guests. We have no idea of the office politics behind their
        decision. After Sheryl confronted the women about not moving to the table when
        invited, she said they agreed with her. In summary, the women attended an
        executive meeting at their boss’ request. They chose to sit away from the
        table. After the meeting, Sheryl told them that they “should” have moved to the
        table without knowing why they didn’t. It seems judgmental.
        The founder of a firm where I was the first and only
        female consultant conducted seminars. I always enjoyed accompanying him. He introduced
        me by saying, “although she looks like she could be a ballerina, she is one of
        the best engineers I’ve had the privilege to know.” I took his statement as it
        was meant: a compliment. Women told me at every seminar that I should be
        offended. I never disagreed with them because they were making judgment calls
        without knowing the facts. This experience left me asking, “did the women in
        Sheryl’s example really agree or were they simply trying to move away from an
        uncomfortable confrontation?”
        Starting a dialogue about improving women’s
        advancement opportunities is wonderful but more is needed. Action has to be
        taken to change the status quo. Sheryl is in a position to start the process.
        Seeking a highly qualified individual for an unpaid intern position hardly
        qualifies as leading the charge. The intern relationship is usually win-win. People
        get experience that improves their qualifications while the organization gets
        labor.
        Lean In Foundation’s advertisement for an unpaid
        intern listed qualification requirements above the normal expectations. The ad
        read, “Wanted: Lean In editorial intern, to work with our editor (me) in New
        York. Part-time, unpaid, must be HIGHLY organized with editorial and social
        chops…Design and web skills a plus!” After the ad starting receiving negative feedback,
        it was deleted and this was posted:
        “Want to clarify previous Lean In post. This was MY
        post, on MY feed, looking for a volunteer to help me in New York. LOTS of
        nonprofits accept volunteers. This was NOT an official Lean In job posting.
        Let’s all take a deep breath.” If it isn’t
        an official Lean In job posting, why does it lead with “Wanted: Lean In
        editorial intern?” 
        The bottom line for me is that I read the book
        hoping for something to pass on to my daughter. It disappointed me. I remain
        hopeful that a movement will start that changes the status quo. So far, that
        has been disappointing too. Hope remains eternal.

  50. ElissaFreeman says:

    So here’s the thing:  I haven’t read the book…but, I get the notion of leaning in. In the last few business meetings I’ve had, I leaned in big time. Instead of sitting back, dealing with it later…I took the bull by the horns.   Leaning in will often take others by surprise…but the satisfying result is worth it.

  51. rdopping says:

    Woman make up more than half the population. Holy jamoly (I knew that). If you all banded together the “Establishment” wouldn’t stand a chance. The million woman march. Imagine that, huh?

    BTW, Janine is now reading the book. She keep shaking a fist in the air saying, “Yes!” I am afraid…..very afraid.

  52. ltcassociates says:

    For what it’s worth, I thought about this thread a 2nd time on my way into work this morning. Why couldn’t I get “Lean In” out of my head?
    Then I remembered, I’d nearly used it as the subject line of a recent “Sales Idea” post to my distributors a few months ago. I’d written a piece to my field force about old habits dying hard, about trying to shake off the “comfortable” inflation riders they’d been selling which were unnecessarily high-priced and instead trying to learn the modern– albeit unconventional– affordable options.
    To hook them into reading my post, I needed a cogent subject line which conveyed the direction of my article. At first I tried: “Inflation Protection: Lean In”. But it didn’t sit right with me– although I instinctively felt like Sheryl’s title was a push toward something progressive and revolutionary, the fact was: I hadn’t read the book, and worried that I didn’t really like using it out of context.
    So– at the great risk of mixing politics and business– I settled on: “Inflation Protection: Lean Forward”!
    / I’m sure it arched an eyebrow or two, but no one gave me any grief ; )

  53. Susan Hart says:

    Just finished reading this book as part of a women’a business book club. While I agree with many of your points, I found the book to be a recollection down someone else’s career path that’s more exception than the rule. While the author’s experience involves much bigger brands and more global travel, I’ve had more learning lessons from working in testosterone-driven workplaces (corrections management can do that) where leaning in was a matter of survival, not an option. Because I’m older than the author, I also didn’t feel like I gained a tremendous amount of insight. HOWEVER, with that said, I agree with you in that all women under 40 should read this book, especially if they’re navigating a jungle gym or career ladder!

  54. […] For a great discussion of the jungle gym analogy, I encourage you to visit Gini Dietrich’s post about Lean […]

  55. biggreenpen says:

    Comment number 157. Woo! Finally read it. Here’s what I thought:

  56. […] The facts and stats Sheryl Sandberg presents on the topics of women in the workplace, salary gaps, competition, ambition, and work / family / life balance will make you stop and think — I definitely did. It’s amazing how many inequalities that women still face and the obstacles we put in our own way at times. Still, a couple of the points fell flat in my opinion but I won’t get into that here (criticisms of the book are heavily documented if you Google ‘reviews of Lean In.) […]

  57. christinagsmith says:

    My mother gave me this book and I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes. It sat on my shelf until I read your review and thought, I could use some inspiration. 
    Gini, I absolutely agree. I found it very inspiring and yes, it did feel like a stroll down someone else’s career path but for me that wasn’t a bad thing. It helped me to identify with her and because of that I felt less alone in my own career choices/decisions. I found it so inspiring I decided to start my own content marketing and social media consultancy.
    I came back to this blog post because I wanted to thank you for your suggestion.  Thanks. (Love your blog.)

  58. […] but that’s mostly because I think we are our own worst enemy in so many ways. There have been many discussions about this here on Spin Sucks, and I could rant on about this for some time, but I’ll leave it at […]

  59. biggreenpen says:

    ginidietrich CommProSuzi eplastino WHOA – I know this is old … but I don’t think I realized you had read Orange is the New Black … I am glad I read it via audio. The author ( @piper ) is very active on social media.

  60. ginidietrich says:

    biggreenpen Oh heck yeah! I am a voracious reader.

  61. […] time-consuming activity, but “CEOs who take the time to read about the experiences of other chief executives and other business leaders have an advantage.” […]

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