Leaning in with Sandberg
by Rita Nguyen
I had mentioned in a previous blog that I had written a very long, in-depth blog about my views on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and then promptly lost it to the fickle Draft Gods. And now that it’s been over two months since I read the book, I don’t really remember a lot of the nuances of the book any longer. Still, this book, and it’s messages have come up in a lot of conversations recently and has prompted me to write this blog even though I don’t recall all the points I had originally wanted to talk about.
First off it should be noted that I had no desire to read this book as I was firmly in the haters camp, figuring that a billionaire wasn’t going to “get it”. I got through the first few chapters of the book with a lot of scoffing and eye rolling. I was always one of those people who thought that if you wanted to play the game then you put on your big girl panties and played by the rules…no whining, no asking for a time out or pressing the pause button. Sandberg talks about that scene in the movie A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks says “there’s no crying in baseball!” and that’s exactly how I felt about the career thing. What I didn’t really understand, or care about is that the rules were what was wrong in the first place. As a woman who really didn’t have any burning desire for a family or kids, it really didn’t occur to me to care about the feminist movement or take up the sword for a cause that I didn’t care about.
Having discussed this book so many times over the past few months, I came to realize that all the women who I talked to took different messages from the book. One poor girl even decided that if she didn’t forsake everything in her life, she’d never be a manager….though God knows how she may have gotten that since it’s counter to absolutely everything Sandberg says in her book. In any case, here’s where it got interesting for me…it took me about half the book to finally get to the part that resonated for me, and it was even in the title! “The Will to Lead”. As one of the very few female CEO’s of a tech startup in Asia, my indifference to encouraging girls to want leadership roles or tech careers was not acceptable. She’s absolutely right when she notes that our generation is failing those before us by falling into complacency. Feminism is not a dirty word and this book finally taught me to embrace it and understand that this does not make me less of a professional or leader.
Like Sheryl, I’ve been called a diva, bossy, bitchy and many other things throughout my career simply for doing my job – oftentimes better than the men around me. And unbelievably, it’s usually the women who are doing the name calling. I have a little 2 and a half year old niece who is feisty, opinionated and frankly, awesome. I head someone call her bossy the other day and promptly corrected them…she’s a leader and delegator. I no longer use the word bossy as Sandberg rightly points out that only little girls are called bossy because the behaviours that lead to that word are expected and accepted of little boys.
For those who haven’t read the book, I highly encourage you to do so – and make your partners. It’s not long – 240 pages – and very easy to read. At the very least, watch Sandberg’s TED talk – it’s 15 minutes of your time. Watch it and I hope that you too come out realizing that “Women can not be half the population and a special interest group at the same time”. That quote is from Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in this awesome TED talk.
I actually had the same initial reaction when she was giving a talk at my school, including the eye-rolling and the dismissive reaction to her talk on feminism. But it was a great read and pointed out so many flaws in the “rules”. It was very empowering especially to women like me who grew up in Myanmar but always had the will to speak out and be assertive. Also, a big congrats on the Forbes’ list! It is such a tremendous achievement. You’re empowering a lot of women out there!
Thanks 🙂 And thanks for the comment – are you still in Myanmar? I’m working on a bunch of initiatives to try to empower women in Myanmar and we are always looking for smart strong women to be involved.
I would love to be involved. I’m currently in upstate new york for college right now, coming home for the summer though! Please let me know if there’s anything I could help with the initiatives from afar!
I hope you’re doing well in Myanmar. I have a friend who is studying computer science in the same college with me. She is going to be in Myanmar for the summer. I would love to introduce you to her online if that’s okay with you. She would love to intern for Squar during the summer if there’s any work that needs to be taken care of. Please let me know what you think. Many thanks and hope to hear from you soon!