It was one of those rare occasions when I felt very happy and relieved on being proved incorrect!
When I first got to know about this book by Sheryl Sandberg, the famous COO of Facebook, from reviews in some newspapers, my first kneejerk reaction, was to scoff at it. One more bragging from one more “Female Achiever”; I thought, who thinks that the others who do not eventually make it to the top are the lot “scared” of the top slots and/or those who do not have” what it takes”, or who just are not willing enough to take the plunge – happy n secure within their comfort zone!! I thought, it is easy on the part of a woman executive, that too from a background of rather liberal & facilitative western culture, who has already seen so much of success, for reasons whatsoever, to say things like, “ Lean in”, “sit at the table” and exhort other women to dream big and reach for them without holding back themselves; as if it is the fault of the women only that they are not dreaming big or reaching for their goals.
But as I said, those were only my first reaction based on the reviews in some newspapers. At the same time, I was also getting sucked into another strong reaction-almost off-guard! And it was guilt!! I had thought in so many years after quitting my job that I really don’t regret or feel guilty that I quit my job. I have my reasons, so far I thought I am convinced of those reasons. But here comes a book, whose reviews focus on only one part: wherein a powerful woman proclaims: women are not in ‘power’, as they do not aspire to be there and hold themselves back even when opportunities come their way. The book shouts: Lean in to power! we need more women in ‘power” to correct the centuries long discrimination and injustice against women. Need more women in power? Yes, I think so, too. But women do not aspire to power? No, I do not think that is the whole truth!
Suddenly, I start feeling guilty. Have I “pulled back” from “power”, instead of leaning in? And thereby, have I betrayed my forerunners of feminists as well as the coming generations of women?? Have I deprived my fellow women from the impact that I could have made towards bridging the gender gap by hanging on to my corporate job and moving up in the corridors of power?
I was truly keen to read the book myself to know firsthand, in detail, what Sheryl has actually tried to argue and advocate. Thank God, page after page, as I intently went through the book, my joy and relief knew no bounds.
Yes! I can not agree more with each and every aspect of the gender issues that Sheryl has candidly brought out ( happens quite rarely with me). And NO! it is not about exhorting each and every woman to necessarily join the rat race of power in the corporate sector/decision-making Government organizations.
The book is all about “ true freedom” and “ an equal world” !
I found it way too courageous on part of Sheryle to have brought up to focus various real issues – not only the big, but also the so-called small issues ( that actually build up to big issues when unattended to for ages)- that “hold back” talented women from breaking the traditional female stereotypes and /or to display their professional ambition or to reach their potential. As she correctly analyses, some of these factors are external, some institutional and some internal ( almost of a self-perpetuating nature due to which the victim- read woman- becomes the worst perpetrator of the victimization!).
Yes, feminism was about freedom of choice, and not to make us feel guilty, or constantly worry about “ did I get it wrong?”
Yes, leaning in is about giving your best and demanding /extracting the best as you deserve, without allowing to be scuttled due to your gender, and being your best in whatever area you are passionate about – be it raising the next generation, or volunteering for society, or making laws and strategies sitting in the leadership positions of power that can impact the world at large ; OR a mix of all these! However, it makes immense sense when the author says that the need for more women in power is being felt more than ever before, given the degree of gender discrimination against women that has already got deeply entrenched in the social psyche world over !!
At times, all it takes to make you move to your next level is someone else’s opinion that resonates with your own. And after reading the book till the end, I felt very reassured.
Let me introduce myself. I am the 4th of the 5 siblings in order of age & the younger of the two sisters, born to parents from humble background, who taught us very early in our lives: “ Let us agree to disagree !” – a mindset, which, I now fully understand, is actually the bedrock of true freedom. If you, as a child, are not free to disagree with your parents in the first place, or conversely, if you, as a parent, do not allow your children the freedom to disagree with you, you can never expect a society with individuals having a thinking mind in the first place, let alone a ‘free’ mind. Minus the emotions, disagreement is just a difference of opinion and so long as we are not entitled to our opinion, or do not learn to hold an opinion of our own (reasonableness or otherwise of that opinion is altogether a different issue which can only be established through a free debate), we can not call ourselves free!!
Yes, I have quit my service in the corporate sector after more than 25 years for some reasons important to me and my values, although I always put my best foot forward valuing excellence over other rewards in doing things I am responsible for, or passionate about. It was equally to stand up against what I was convinced was injustice, as also to pursue other passions in life to give back something to the society by using my gifts/talents/insights from long and varied experience. Yes, I have not yet entered the elite club of the Super-achievers, perhaps I am not as worldly-wise to be there, or perhaps because the time is yet to come. But no regrets, as I have continued to hold my head high with a free mind and have continued to exercise my free will in making reasoned choices of my own in critical situations in life – both professional and personal. And this is precious enough to me to keep my batteries charged, come what may, and make a difference to at least a few other lives.
Can not thank Sheryl enough for what she has been doing through this book and other modes of communication to lead a movement, standing up for the cause of half the people on this planet!!