Posted by: charlmc | February 3, 2016

Sheryl Sandberg Says to Lean In

It is interesting me that in our literature reviewed in class, specifically in the Ely reading, the main argument is that women are not leaders because of second-generation gender bias.  Doesn’t this deprive women of their agency, in the same leadership literature that tries to encourage women to be more agentic?

Perhaps women’s misrepresentation in top leadership positions does not squarely lie on any one issue’s shoulders, be it gender bias, lack of agentic women, or the double bind. Isn’t it more likely a mixture of all the reasons? But there is one reason that we have not discussed yet in class-women removing themselves from the pipeline, opting out of higher leadership positions.

In Sandberg’s TED Talk, Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the writer of Lean In, she suggests that women, facing the greater challenges of being not only leaders, but female leaders, leaders who must walk the tightrope of the doublebind, and the tougher conditions brought about by second-generation gender bias, simply opt out, seeing the greater burden of leadership as not worth the greater difficulty.

She then encourages women to lean in in the workplace, taking their career in their own hands, and to believe in themselves, so that they do not count themselves out of the leadership race.  She acknowledges this will not solve the whole problem, but it is a significant way to reduce the problem.

Sandberg’s TED Talk


  1. I loved this Ted Talk when we watched it in class and found it very empowering. I think the idea about opting-in and not downplaying ambitions ties in with the likability-success discussion. Generally I feel that, women being assertive about their ambitions can be viewed as aggressive and off-putting by others. Even though Sandberg is saying that being forward with your ambitions will bring women more success, she also acknowledges that doing so makes women viewed as less likable.

  2. Just the other day I was in a group interview, and in this group there were primarily men. At first, I felt like I was an outsider, that they were dominating the conversations and that I was just a wall-flower. But then I thought about this Ted talk and realized that I was my own worst enemy in this situation, that I was opting out because I felt overpowered by the personalities in my group. I took what Sandberg said about leaning in a taking the situation into my own hands, rather than standing back at watching was the way to go. After giving myself a mini pep-talk, I knew it was time for me to make myself known and not just be a shadow. And let me tell you, leaning in and becoming an active part of the conversations and letting my voice be heard was the best thing I could have done for myself in that moment. I will always be hesitant to lean in, but it is my goal to lean in more often when it will better me as a leader and as a person. Thank you for this!

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