So as women in leadership seems to be ‘en vogue’, I have been having a read of Sheryl Sandberg’s renowned book ‘lean in’ . Sheryl’s accolades are vast as Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and the first woman to serve on their board, as well as creating her own organisation the Lean in foundation. If that isn’t enough her glittering career history includes Vice President of global online sales and ops at Google and serving the US treasury.
I had perceptions before reading Lean in that it would be ‘feminism central’ with lots of references to the grey suit brigade victimising women who were perpetually banging their heads on the glass ceiling only to be mocked from above by deep tenor raucous laughter. However I was pleasantly surprised and refreshingly really reminded that whilst there are difficulties for women when building their career (like child care often for one) it is not the time to fade but rather the time to lean in and not bow to the pressure of decelerating because breast feeding beckons.
Her very normal and down to earth descriptions of battling morning sickness and breastfeeding whilst holding telephone meetings made me realise no one gets an easy ride. A very timely book for me on returning from maternity leave and a reminder of how fortunate I am to work for an organisation that recognises and celebrates women with three of us on maternity all at once returning to our jobs and in my case a promotion makes me realise I am luckier than many. In fact I rather feel sorry for the sole male on our management team.
Sheryl had a much less fortunate start and had to pioneer flexible working in her organisation and change the culture at the same time, however once she left at 5.30 pm so did others which paved the way for a better wellbeing approach at Facebook.
So what did I learn from the book?
- don’t plan your life around eventual plans to have a family, deal with that when and if it happens
- have discussions with your partner and your organisation about getting the right balance if you have children
- stop the self fulfilling belief that women can’t achieve the same as men can
- dream big and forge through the obstacles
- more female leadership will lead to more equality and fairness
- women don’t always help other women but this is the first wave where they have needed to be competitive to survive, the more women that achieve the balance the more this will change
And above all celebrate and be kind to other women
The last one I think it particularly key and I will be shortly having a women week on loveyourhr blog to celebrate the women that have supported me so far so the book has certainly inspired me to lean in.
If you want to take part in ‘women week’ or you feel there is more we should be doing in this area email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article by Michelle Harte – Head of HR, West Midlands Employers