I’m a reader. I love reading. My favorite author will always be J.K. Rowling and my favorite books will always be the Harry Potter series. I am a child at heart.
But today, I finished Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s not a hard read, but it is a good one. Critics claim it is “a landmark manifesto … addressing twenty-first century issues that never entered Betty Friedan’s wildest dreams … and it will encourage women to persevere in their professional lives” (Janet Maslin, New York Times). It is a “rallying cry to working women” says Meeta Agrawal (Entertainment Weekly). I agree, this is an important read. But it shouldn’t be geared for only young women and those in/out of the workforce. I believe that this book should be read by both male and female students, in high school, because the earlier you know you have the chance to pave the way for change, the better.
I am not a working mother. I am not a mother at all. In fact, I do not plan on becoming a mother for a long time, if at all. I recently graduated from college, and am currently living at home under my mother and father’s roof. I am currently employed, as a nanny, so I have a little background in the way of caring for children and making decisions. I read this book as a suggestion from my boyfriend, who bought it for his sister. His sister is a working mother. I am sure that she will have a differing opinion after finishing this book, but how different is the question. I read this book on his suggestion, and I am very glad I did.
The entire book is insightful, encouraging, and actually interesting to read (I say this because, as an avid reader, even I sometimes see difficulty in reading outside of the YA section). Toward the end of the book, Sandberg recognizes double standards in the workplace, these frustrations that working women hold when their female superior does not give them the time or the warmth that is expected of them, simply because she is a female. The thing is, double standards do not start in the workplace, they start much earlier than that. In order to make change a success, these changes must start at a much earlier time.
Also toward the end of the book, Sandberg writes about how women have the ability to put down other women in the workplace (whether it be at the home, or in the office) because women target and judge other women, when in a perfect world women would be applauding other women’s choices. This is something that starts at a very young age, where girls are fighting each other instead of encouraging and promoting one another. This does not mean we all have to be friends, and hold hands and sing kumbaya around the campfire. This means that we need to stop putting each other down just because we can. That will not help us in the long run. We need to teach our children this — social skills that will help far beyond the classroom walls, more so than examining the reason the author chose to describe his room as blue instead of read, and more so than memorizing the dates of each battle of the Civil War.
This book could aid teachers in encouraging young female and male students that in order to benefit as a whole, we must stick up for each other.
I went to school because I wanted to be a high school history teacher. At the University of Illinois, where the Business and Engineering Schools are known worldwide, questions like “why history? don’t you want to get a job?” are common. There are many jokes about students studying for an LAS degree, and a handful are actually funny. Lean In is definitely centered on corporate America, and even more specifically, the technology hub, but after reading it, this is one book that will be recommended to all those I come into contact with, male or female. As Sandberg points out, equality is not attainable unless men and women both work for it. This is a book that, if I ever end up having children, they will read it before they go off to high school. Because with knowledge comes opportunity.