The best thing I can say about Monday's yellow jacket attack is that it gave me some uninterrupted reading time while I iced my sore, throbbing limbs. Grabbing the next book from my pile, I read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead in a day.
Sandberg is Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, so she knows about being a woman in a leadership role, and it's clear that she has a passion for encouraging other women to strive for their best. But her focus is so narrow and corporate, I'm not sure how helpful the book is to most women.
While the book does make occasional references to women with more "normal person" jobs like teachers, Sandberg doesn't provide anecdotes from anyone like that. Instead, she offers lots of specific examples and quotes from people she knows, which is fine, except the women she hangs out with socially appear to be all CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, and the like.
When Sandberg talks about what an adjustment it was for her to change jobs from Google, which employeed 20,000 people, to Facebook, which had "only" 550 employees at the time, I can't imagine what perspective she would have on the kind of indie business where I work. We only have four people on staff, two of whom are extremely part-time. There isn't much of anyone to lead, and competing with men isn't an issue because we rarely even see a man.
I had hoped this book would be more about blazing your own trail, but it's really not. At one point Sandberg says, "[I]ncreasingly, opportunities are not well defined but, instead, come from someone jumping in to do something. That something then becomes his job." YES. I'd like to read a whole book about that! But this is not that book.
Part of Lean In's premise is that in many ways it's harder for women to be the ones "jumping in to do something." My friend L. and I were talking about work recently. We're sort of in the same boat--we've each been at our respective jobs for quite a while, and we're not sure what comes next. "At least we have jobs...." L. said at one point. And I agreed, but I also wondered aloud if our (usually) positive outlooks have held us back, because we're too grateful to have whatever we can get. We aren't leaning in toward the next big thing. How much of that is because we're women, and how much is because our lives' circumstances have made looking on the bright side a necessary survival skill for each of us? I don't know.
Sandberg says, "[K]nowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better." Good point. While Sandberg is quick to admit that she already leads an extremely privileged life, she also makes no bones about wanting to continue taking on new challenges and to be compensated appropriately for her efforts. More of us could take a cue from that, no matter what kind of jobs we have.