Sheryl Sandberg is the 43-year-old COO of Facebook and her genius new book is called “Lean In.” It is one of the most important books about women in the workplace of 2013. The book is not only making serious waves, it is making serious sense.
Sandberg’s book title refers to the idea of leaning into a conversation and being an engaged participant of a discussion. She urges women to not only take a seat at the conference table, but to be a respected presence. The chapters inspire male leaders to understand what women are up against so that they can do their part to change what needs to be changed.
As we are about to celebrate Administrative Professional’s Week beginning on April 24, 2013, there are many reasons why every assistant would benefit from reading Sandberg’s superbly researched book. After all, 95 percent of the 4.1 million assistants in America are women. With intelligence and humor, she tackles the following topics:
- The reasons why women are making 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man
- The more successful a woman is, the less she is liked
- The double-bind women are in when it comes to negotiating compensation packages
- The very real fears that consume women about when and if to become a working mother
Sandberg has been on a media blitz. She was profiled on 60 Minutes, was a Time Magazine cover story and now the book is a New York Times best-seller. The conversation about how women and men are working together has been reopened in a powerful way and is hitting a nerve around the country.
Sandberg writes, “We are a new generation and we need a new approach.”
That new approach includes working towards transformation of our workplace with the collaborative buy-in of both women and men. It seems to be happening. High profile male leaders including Virgin CEO Richard Branson and Cisco CEO John Chambers are openly supporting Sandberg’s ideas of newfound respect for women in our workplace and in our homes.
For companies to create an environment where women are genuinely respected and encouraged to speak up is powerful stuff. After all, it is not possible for bullying to exist in a climate of respect.
Since the biggest challenge I see in today’s workplace is the reluctance and inability to speak up when we know we should, I applaud Sandberg’s chapter called “Seek and Speak Your Truth.” She writes about the fears we have about being honest and price we pay for it in the form of being criticized, not being liked, and at worst, losing our jobs.
Sandberg’s solution: “Talking can transform minds, which can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions.”
For us to ask one another in our offices, “What can we do to make things better?” is a proactive strategy with enormous potential. Leaning in means caring enough to be heard and to make a difference not only for ourselves, but for our daughters and our sons.
If you are an assistant, I am rooting you on to lean in, stand up, and speak out to say: “Here’s my idea.” Change is in the air. Happy Administrative Professionals Week!