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Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead

Updated: Feb 9

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead has been influential in sparking conversations and initiatives to empower women to pursue leadership roles and break down gender barriers. The Economist has described this book as "a brave book to write…direct, funny and critical", and so the author claims that writing this book was not just her encouraging the others to lean in, but this is also her leaning in.


It's important to note that while Sheryl Sandberg is widely recognized and influential, her influence and importance are also a subject of debate and criticism. Nonetheless, her impact on gender equality cannot be denied, and this book is definitely "a landmark manifesto," as the New York Times noted.



This is my book summary of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. My notes are informal and contain quotes from the book and my thoughts. Each book summary has a short description, top lessons from the book, chapter-by-chapter summary, and favorite quotes. Enjoy!


Top 10 Lessons from the Book


Embrace Ambition: Set your career goals high, pursue your ambitions, and never shy away from leadership roles. Don't Self-Sabotage: Overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome is essential. Believe in your abilities and avoid undermining yourself. Sit at the Table: Actively participate in meetings and discussions. Assert your presence and make your voice heard. Make Your Partner a Real Partner: Shared responsibilities at home are crucial. Foster equality in your partnership. Seek Feedback and Mentorship: Improve your professional skills and advance your career by seeking feedback and mentorship. Don't Leave Before You Leave: Don't disengage from your career prematurely due to future family expectations. Lean In Together: Encourage and support other women in their careers. Create a network of allies who can help each other succeed. It's a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder: Understand that career paths aren't always linear. Embrace career changes and lateral moves as opportunities for growth. Ban Bossy: Challenge stereotypes and encourage girls to be assertive leaders without negative labels. Success and Likability Are Not Mutually Exclusive: You can be both successful and likable. Don't be afraid to be assertive and confident while maintaining positive relationships.


Interested to read more? Click to expand chapter by chapter summary


Chapter 1 – The Leadership Ambitious Gap

In this chapter, Sandberg explores the leadership ambition gap, noting that women are often less ambitious than men when pursuing high-ranking positions. She discusses societal and cultural factors that contribute to this gap. We women consistently underestimate our capabilities. This phenomenon is illustrated by a survey of potential political candidates, revealing that even individuals with impressive qualifications tend to undervalue themselves. Even when women achieve success, they may still struggle with moments of self-doubt.

Chapter 2- Seat at the Table

Chapter 3 -Success and Like-ability

Chapter 4 - It's a jungle gym not a ladder

Chapter 5 - are you my mentor?

Chapter 6 - Seek and speak your truth

Chapter 7 - don't leave before you leave

Chapter 8 - Make your partner a real partner

Chapter 9 - the myth of doing it all

Chapter 10 - let's start talking about it

Chapter 11 - working together toward equality

In conclusion, while I appreciate the author's vulnerability and support for women throughout many chapters, it's evident that most women may feel excluded. Some examples, like traveling on a private jet for a conference, reflect a level of privilege not accessible to many. Only women in high-level positions and with certain life privileges can relate. Nonetheless, credit the author for addressing crucial topics and encouraging women to dream big, stay ambitious, and not give up. For all the women out there who are in the male dominant industry and feels discarded the message is clear: lean in and continue pursuing your goals, even in the face of all sorts of challenges that we as women today, have.


Favorite quotes from the book:


Sylvia Ann Hewlett "The best career move she can make is to find a partner who will share the load at home. This will greatly increase her odds of being able to stay in the workforce and reach the highest levels of her profession."
Caitlin Moran "We still live in a world where a girl who says 'I want to be a boss!' is treated with surprise, as if she's saying, 'I want to be a boss,' but by the way she winks or waves at the bartender."
Michelle Obama "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens."

Beyond the Book: "Lean In" Circles


Join Sheryl's Circles, a global community empowering women to achieve their ambitions. Connect for support, mentorship, and inspiration to lean into your career and personal goals: https://leanin.org/circles.

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