Lean in, that’s it; just a little bit further…
Our constant reader is having a well-earned break; so today you get the intermittent reader enjoying the blossom tree and spring bulbs out my office window!
Lean In: Have you read this, or did you just read the interview in The Listener? If you haven’t read it, then you should. Lean In raises the lid on the ‘ism’ that I believe happens the most, and is confronted the least – sexism – but in a way that doesn’t rage against the mechanics of society, or blame women for the predicament (well, not much, anyway).
I, politely, declined a reading copy from our lovely Random House rep, Louise, thinking it was, as an educated working mother, entirely irrelevant for me. I was then lucky enough to have one thrust upon me anyway. It was so enthralling, and the message so clear, I stayed reading it straight through until 1am one Friday night (in spite of the need to get up to a toddler and a baby).
Unfortunately, it had that (mostly) annoying American trait of a bit too much didacticism, but mostly it affirmed my life choices, and the life I am trying to make for my daughter. It affirmed those of us who choose to blend careers with parenting. It affirmed my friends who choose to be at home full-time with their youngsters. It affirmed my husband, who is at home with our now nearly 4 year-old and our 16 month old. It affirmed my letter to the Southland Times in 2011 regarding the gender pay gap and Alastair Thompson’s ‘brain explosion’ – wholly unsupported by my all-female managerial equivalents in my all-female organisation. It affirmed my continuing to breast feed my children while returning to work – wholly unsupported by my mother, mother-in-law and sisters, and (then) female co-managers; luckily with baby number two, I’m in charge, and I hope I set a new standard of normal for the men and women at the bookshop.
Lean In encouraged me to complain to my daughter’s preschool about her being made, by a boy, to be the nurse, while he was the doctor (“because I’m the boy”) in dress ups that had a gender bias – couldn’t’ they all be in kiddie scrubs the way medical professionals are?
What Lean In also did is encourage me to speak out (even more!). I correct my wider family when they refer to any little girl (particularly my own) as ‘bossy’ – in a male sphere, the same behaviour is the positive early manifestation of ‘leadership’.
Believe it or not, I and my colleague were referred to as ‘girlies’ yesterday, twice! By two different men, both trying to secure business, one assuming he’d already spoken to ‘the man in charge’. To the first one I said nothing as my reaction was about to be as out of line as his – the second I quietly corrected him. “We are women,” I said. “Or, we are staff. Either term is okay. ‘Girly’ is not. Would you call the General Manager of your company ‘boyo’?”
I’m surprised today to see that this book is still on the New York Times Bestsellers list, in both hard and paperback, but of course – it’s still relevant. Because it’s enduring it’s worth a UBS review of books mention; perhaps we killed the debate the book raises too early in New Zealand?
Sandberg asks women to ‘lean in’: lean in to the debate; lean in to the promotion; lean in to the child whose choices are already being restricted by gender. Men and women –help the women in your world lean in! It’s good for all of us.
And when I think about books that have affected and affirmed my life quite as much as Lean In, there are only two others that come to mind: To Kill a Mocking Bird (affirming my strong feelings against injustice) and Robyn Hyde’s Wednesday’s Children (affirming that the world of imagination shouldn’t just be for childhood). Even with Lean In’s minor shortcomings in tone and tenor, that’s not bad company for a book to a keep.