Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women's voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives.
That's the marketing hook for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's new book, Lean In. Sandberg is ranked on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World.
In Lean In, the publisher says, Sandberg examines why women's progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.
Just Lean In
Many may have heard Sandberg's talk at a TED conference in 2010. She discussed how women unintentionally hold themselves back in the world of work. The TED Talk created such a buzz that it led to the book. The video, which encouraged women to "sit at the table," has been viewed more than 2 million times.
"One of the central messages of @LeanInOrg is that we have to get beyond gender stereotypes," she said on Twitter.
Lean In digs deeper into issues Sandberg raised in her TED Talk. She shares from her personal life, offers data points, and includes research about the bias against working women.
Lean In will be released on March 11. It has received praise from reviewers, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "Sheryl provides practical suggestions for managing and overcoming the challenges that arise on the 'jungle gym' of career advancement. I nodded my head in agreement and laughed out loud as I read these pages. Lean In is a superb, witty, candid, and meaningful read for women (and men) of all generations."
Shaming Women Leaders?
The timing of the book is interesting if coincidental, given another female executive icon in the technology world's move to ban telecommuting. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to disallow working from home is causing many women to criticize one of their own. And industry watchers are also concerned about how the ripple effect of Mayer's decision could hit women elsewhere in the workplace.
"On one hand, it's great this issue has received so much attention because it keeps the work-life conversation alive and highlights the need for cultural shifts in organizations," said Jamie Ladge, assistant professor of management and organizational development at Northeastern University.
"On the other hand, it's too bad it went public because it has the potential to put to shame women leaders....No one would be talking about this as much if it was a male CEO who enforced the policy change (even though they should). We may forever remember Marissa Mayer as the one who did this rather than something else (e.g. becoming among the first women to be hired as a CEO while pregnant)."