Why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Resonates With Working Women


A few weeks back, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg only to realize how everything she talks about is true, so very true. Yes, more so in the context of Indian Multinationals which don’t consider investing in women worth their while. Every day something happens which reaffirms this. Almost every single day.


It is so hard to be a working woman and climb up the ladder. The prejudices, too many. The system skewed against us, so much. It is even harder to be a working woman and a mother, for very few companies help women balance this. As Sheryl Sandberg says, too few workplaces offer the flexibility and access to child care and parental leave that are necessary for pursuing a career while raising children.


Why Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Resonates With Working Women. If you are a working mother, you’ll identify with what she says in her book. #ted #tedtalks #women #girlboss #workingwomen #leanin #quotes #truth #sherylsandberg #blog #bossbabe #equality #workingmom #momlife
Pic Credit : Working Mother via Shutterstock


As I write this post, a friend, a woman friend of mine, has been overlooked for an Onsite opportunity. She sits at her cubicle wondering what the point of working so hard is when there’s no acknowledgement of that. It’s unfair and sad because she reaches office on time, works on all the modules, works hard too. She reviews the work of the others in her team. In fact, works more than she probably should. They even rely on her for status calls with the onsite team. They depend on her for everything technical. But when it comes to opportunity, they overlook her. What is even worse than unfair in this case is that they have chosen a person who knows nothing about the modules. The irony in all this is that she is supposed to train him too before he travels because he has no clue what is to be done there. To add to that, he is not even from the project. And no he didn’t even have a Visa prior to the decision being made. So, on being asked to ready him for a job that she herself can do exceptionally well, she wonders if this is all because she is a woman.


Well, unfortunately, my friend, it probably is.


This is what happens in the offices today. Yes, it does. And this again reminds me of what Sheryl Sandberg says – The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.


I’m in between projects now, looking for a new project. I cannot begin to tell you how worried I am about the kind of project I will find. How will I manage the time? Will they understand that I can only work from 9 to 5 at the office and then connect from home if needed? Will they understand this is because I also have an infant to drop and pick up from the creche? Will they even allow me to work from home?


It is even harder to be a working woman and a mother, for very few companies help women balance this. Click To Tweet


How will I work and balance my life as a full-time mother with policies that were clearly made without thinking about working mothers? Will I have to leave my job, after all, giving up my financial security and the happiness that comes with it? Will I just become another woman adding to the statistic of women before me who had to give up their careers on reaching the middle management level? Will I just be another casualty of an apathetic establishment?


I don’t have my parents here so I cannot even leave my daughter behind. And I also don’t want to make them do what is basically my job. So, again the question arises, is it absolutely not possible to balance the role of a mother and a working woman? Why is it so hard to make policies that aid women? Why don’t the folks in human resources that I reach out to remember that I am human too not just a resource?


Will I just become another woman adding to the statistic of women before me who had to give up their careers on reaching the middle management level? Click To Tweet


Why do I feel that only some pledge for parity while the rest don’t even give a hoot, yes women included? I don’t understand why women who reach the higher positions after making countless sacrifices don’t do anything about this system which chokes women. Why don’t they do anything when we are forced to drop out of the race, one after another like toppling dominoes? Why?


Is it because as Sheryl says once a woman achieves success, particularly in a gender-biased context, her capacity to see gender discrimination is reduced? I hope to God that’s not true.


I’m trying really hard to Lean In, to work and at the same time be a mother as well. But I’m choking with the unnecessary things I need to worry about thanks to non-existent policies or the existence of policies that make life harder for a working mother. I’m good at my work, if not very good at least good but still, I feel frustrated trying to convince someone that my work won’t be affected if I don’t sit at the desk 10 hours daily. I need the flexibility which no one is willing to offer and it is affecting me. I feel depressed, anxious and upset. How long will I be able to carry on this way, I don’t really know. Is this how companies suffocate women out of the workforce?


It is still very hard for us women to make a name for ourselves. You need to be in our shoes to understand. Hence, feminism, the movement, is needed today as well because the fight for equality is clearly still on, still very much on.


Well, while I search the answers to the questions bothering me, while I continue my fight, while I sway between desperation and frustration, I want to share some quotes from Lean In with you. These are quotes which spoke to me, got me thinking and must have also spoken to millions of women worldwide. They make me realise I’m not the only woman facing this and that I’m not imagining things. These are quotes through which she speaks for all of us. So, here they are.


A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments. Remember, what happened with my promotion?


When a girl tries to lead, she is often labelled bossy. Boys are seldom called bossy because a boy taking the role of a boss does not surprise or offend. Remember how a peer tried to boss me when I joined work after maternity leave?


The effort to combine career and motherhood may be particularly fraught. The stakes are high, as they may expect nothing less than perfection, both at home and in the workplace. When they fall short of lofty ideals, they may retreat altogether – from the workplace to home or vice versa.


Mothers don’t want to be perceived as less dedicated to their jobs than men or women without family responsibilities. We overwork to overcompensate.


For many men, the fundamental assumption is they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.


Until women have supportive employers and colleagues as well as partners who share family responsibilities, they don’t have real choice.


The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.


Men of all ages must commit to changing the leadership ratios.


There is always an opportunity cost, and I don’t know any woman who feels comfortable with all her decisions.


Too many work standards remain inflexible and unfair, often penalising women with children.


Too many talented women try their hardest to reach the top and bump up against systemic barriers,


We need more women in power. When leadership insists that these policies (to help women) change, they will.


More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment of all women.


Do these quotes resonate with you? Tell me. Also, share your experience at the workplace.


Why Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Resonates With Working Women. If you are a working mother, you’ll identify with what she says in her book. #ted #tedtalks #women #girlboss #workingwomen #leanin #quotes #truth #sherylsandberg #blog #bossbabe #equality #workingmom #momlife


47 thoughts on “Why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Resonates With Working Women”

  1. Sigh, Naba. Lean In as a book speaks to every woman. The amazing thing is that things are not that different in the US. Just recently l got an opportunity to take up full-time job for one of the projects that l do and l refused. Can you imagine the commute and the expectations to stay late? It is easier for a man. They can leave their homes early and come back late. Their spouses even if working have to worry about maids, household chores, kids, their studies etc. If single, they can start back even more late. A woman will need an escort if she works late. Yes, our companies don’t worry about this. Some allow WFH but hardly have policies to help working mothers. The leaves when your child is sick. I had to drag my sick toddler when l worked earlier. And it uses to make me feel so guilty. This is a bottomless pit unfortunately. Keep chipping at it is all l’d say.

    1. Ohh…I know, Rachna..Somehow we just have to give up something or the other. I was reading Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive where she mentions that the culture of spending more time at work and the assumption that only that is productive has been brought around by men but now women who want to thrive at the workplace are finding it difficult because they also have to worry about 100 other things not related to work. I’m trying , Rachna. I just hope I don’t burn out or that I decide what is best for me before I do..

  2. I read this book 3 years ago, just after I moved to UK after giving in to the struggles of being a working mother. It was an eye-opener for me. It illuminated me with the fact that the fights which we put up with in our daily lives in the professional space while raising children are not different from those of the women in the so-called developed nation such as US. And there I was, thinking all the time that I was the lonesome person dealing with it. The society per se also does not prove to be supportive to working mothers. Getting dependent on parents or in-laws tends to make the situation stickier. It is definitely not easy, either which way. You are doing a wonderful job of bringing these concerns out repeatedly and I realise how it is necessary to talk about the things and aspects, we stand for, even if it repetitive. Thus, if conscious parenting is the issue I stand for, writing about it again and again does not make it non-sensical harping.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…Blasphemy!My Profile

    1. But you know Anamika, I feel like I’m shouting in an empty room while people are watching from the other room and thinking I’m crazy. Things are not changing and I’m getting tired of having to fight every other day 🙁

  3. Really Naba.. been there, done that. I was in exactly same situation wherein I was managing a module. And my PM picked up a guy from another team to go onsite for the same while I was managing the whole thing and was the POC for everything. To top it, it was a new module which I had to pick up and learn while the guy got everything on a platter. When I confronted the PM on why you did not consider me, he said he ‘assumed’ that I will not be interested. And here I was juggling with 2 young kids. Those were the days.

  4. We still live in a patriarchal society and the ridiculous thing is that it isn’t great for men either. Companies miss out over and over on what women have to bring by being so inflexible. We certainly have a long way to go yet. thanks for sharing. A thought provoking post.

  5. I was quite impressed with the book and got my wife a copy. (I had the e-version).
    She has just started reading it, and says she can relate to it quite a bit.
    Sid recently posted…A Mug of …..My Profile

  6. I can relate to the book so well, despite not having a corporate job. I can only imagine what this must be doing to you, Naba! How unfair that your friend was passed over for that onsite opportunity! That just makes me see red. When will equality become a norm instead of the exception? I hope, for our daughters’ sakes, sooner than later.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…4 Simple Ways to Stop Multi-TaskingMy Profile

  7. It must be truly hard in the heavily biased world of corporate jobs. I saw it first hand when I was working and even though i didn’t have kids then but the bias was very clear. I hate what happened to your colleague. How terribly disappointing and sickening to have to train someone for a job that should have by right been yours.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Clearing my headMy Profile

  8. I love this book, read it twice, and as someone from the US, i can tell you it speaks to us women here. Equal is equal and we all need to stand for not one iota short of that. #mg

  9. I do resonate with some of the things, but I guess a lot also depends on an individual’s idea of success. Also, I don’t have children, so a lot of the balance problems don’t really impact me as much. But I do agree that it is high time that coprorates take some steps to make things easier, in a way, for women – to help them balance career and home and not feel like they are not able to climb the corporate ladder because they have children.
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…#MicroBlogMondays: Where do ideas come fromMy Profile

  10. These quotes resonate a lot with me Naba. When I have to be considered for onsite opportunity, people sent someone else and they simply told we didn’t expect you will accept as you have a kid to take care of. People assume a lot when it comes to working mothers. We are doing more work and stressing ourselves to be at par with male colleagues.
    In our company, women at the top of corporate ladder try to understand the situations and help other women colleagues. But, sometimes they also cannot do anything about gender discrimination.
    One more thing that irks me is colleagues can’t beleive if a working mother is ambitious in her career. Everyone expects her to slow down in career path and take care of kid even though she has support at home.

  11. I can’t tell how much I love that book. Have you seen Sheryl’s TED talk introducing the concept? It’s awesome and I can’t tell how much it has personally helped me.
    I feel that women – working on not, need to sit at the table meaning being present when they have to. They need to raise their hand to take up things before they quit before quitting.. They need to believe in themselves. Just believe.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…A matter of perspectiveMy Profile

    1. I will definitely see that , Parul. The thing is I want to sit at the table but the inflexibility is making it really difficult. I am also not giving up but again the inflexibility is stressing me out. Even though I believe, the company is not letting me soar. So, more needs to be done when it comes to policies for working mothers and women in general so that those who believe can actually sit at the table without being forced out
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…Why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Resonates With Working WomenMy Profile

  12. It is a great book and very real. What is sad is, not much has changed over the decades in certain situations. The truest thing is this: women MUST support other women. As long as they compete with each other, things will not change. In our culture, they’re too used to taking the backseat and being stereotyped. And as for balance, sadly she is the one who has to take a stand and be strong.

    Lovely review Naba!
    Vidya Sury recently posted…What if self-pity was a choice?My Profile

  13. Those are powerful quotes. The first one really got to me. I’m a nurse, so I probably don’t see this disparity so much in my field because, let’s face it, it’s women-driven. But from the stories I hear, there needs to be a change. Namely, a better work-life balance for women.
    Risa recently posted…#Microblog Mondays: The very heart of the homeMy Profile

  14. The pledge for parity is only in papers unfortunately, Naba. I have seen so many of colleagues suffer.
    I hope you get a good project with understanding people.

  15. I haven’t read this book yet but the quotes resonate with m. This late night work culture needs to stop. I had seen in india how the single guys would stay late for work that could be finished within day and they would get all the appreciation while the girls had to leave by 6pm bus. It created a very unhealthy workplace. Specially in India when safety of women is a big issue. Some projects even try not to provide late night cabs to save money. I feel fortunate to work in a place where the management of equally concerned about their and their team’s work life. Not to mention many of the top leaders are women. I hope you get a good understanding boss…
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…Japanese Paper Doll TutorialMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Rajlakshmi..What you just said Arianna Huffington mentions in her book Thrive. Men have created this culture where we need to be at work for long hours to show that we work. And now that it is in the minds of people , women suffer. Most men don’t even need to care about anything apart from office work so it doesn’t bother them but it’s not so easy for women.
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…Why Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Resonates With Working WomenMy Profile

  16. I’m so glad that you raised this issue but sad that you too are going through this in a similar fashion as perhaps many of us have, at some stage in our careers. What is really sad is that mindsets haven’t changed much over the years. There is a lot of rhetoric and lot of shallowness in the way women at the top view women’s issues. At the end of the day, many of us find that banging our heads against a brick wall only hurts us the most, if the policies do not get translated into practice. I fought a tough battle a decade ago trying to juggle career with looking after my son and since I was not inclined to take the help and support from my parents/in-laws, I ended up quitting but not after putting up a fight. It is a lonely battle for women out there who wish to balance home and work no matter how ‘equal’ we are said to be. We need real policies that actually work for women not just for filling up the rule books!

    1. It’s so sad, isn’t it that nothing has changed for a decade ! You said it, we need real policies and not lip service. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything changing in the next 10 years either. That’s the ground reality. I want to be hopeful and upbeat about it but I guess we know better , don’t we?
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…Choosing To Be Grateful – A Way To Inner PeaceMy Profile

  17. I’ve been thinking about reading her book, but what stops me is personal experience. I’ve leaned in and not felt like my leaning in was supported by my workplace. And then I wonder why I should read advice that I can’t put into practice. I haven’t met anyone else who has had her experience with leaning in.
    Mel recently posted…All Internet Content is a GambleMy Profile

  18. there’s a lot of prejudice against women at the workplace everywhere. It’s sad but that’s the harsh reality even when companies scream our CO is a lady. My organization too had women as directors and CEO and at almost all top posts, still there was prejudice. While I was looking for a job change, I was asked by an interviewer you are 28 and married when are planning for a baby! Why on earth was of any importance to them! This sounds like a good book, haven’t read it though.

    1. Oh God! These people. What do they care when a woman is planning a baby? This reminds me of an incident with me. Just before being promoted in 2014, my lead asked me they are thinking of promoting me but I should tell them if I have any ‘plans’ ! Well, I wonder if men are asked such personal questions. No, I don’t think so. It’s all with us.
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…Choosing To Be Grateful – A Way To Inner PeaceMy Profile

  19. Naba this is a brilliant book indeed!!!! I had read it sometime back, and it left me thinking for a long long time. I could relate to it in many a ways, maybe I should get a copy for myself and read it again!!

  20. I have been struggling lately. My job position is ending and it has been perfect for me baecsue I have been able to still drop off and pick up my kids, now I have found a new job that I want to go for, and have been asked to go for, but I am not sure it will work with having a family. It is frustrating #mg

  21. Alas! Women are often their worst enemies. Working and motherhood are both tough jobs and even tougher without any help. Sadly attitudes will never change and women only have to work harder to get to the top.
    Don’t give up Naba. You will get there may be later rather than sooner but Fortune favours the brave.

  22. I like her book yet it brings up so many frustrating aspects of trying to advance a career as a woman. I’ve been talked to about Emotional Intelligence while a male counterpart reacts the same way as me, and he gets away with it. And there’s all this little slights of being ignored in meetings or at conferences.

    It’s frustrating and sometimes maddening.

Comments are closed.