February 3, 2023

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What Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ Has Meant to Women

2 min read

When Amy Bailey, a communications strategist, read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, the year was 2013. The #MeToo movement hadn’t yet ballooned, spotlighting the abuses women can face in the workplace. The term #girlboss wasn’t trending. And the question of how Facebook might affect democracy was not front and center.

“It gave me this boost of courage,” said Ms. Bailey, 46, who lives in Green Bay, Wis., referring to Ms. Sandberg’s book. “It struck this feminist chord in me — if you just push harder, if you just ask for more, someone will take notice.”

Nearly a decade later, Ms. Bailey said she had been denied raises, pumped milk in the smoking lounge of her office and cut back on her professional ambitions, recognizing the challenge of balancing her work with motherhood. She has also soured on the Lean In philosophy that taught her that a little grit was all she needed for career success.

“It’s just not true,” she said. “No one has ever tapped me on the shoulder because I did more and was more prepared.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Sandberg announced that she was leaving her position as chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, Meta — the perch that made her one of the highest-profile women in American business. She had been in the job for five years when she published “Lean In,” and her singular role and success in Silicon Valley helped amplify the book’s message.

For many women “Lean In” has been a bible, a road map to corporate life. Many others have come to understand its limits, or to view it as a symbol of what is wrong with applying individual-focused solutions to the systemic issues holding back women in the workplace, especially women of color and low-income women. And Ms. Sandberg’s departure, for all those readers, is a moment to reflect on how “Lean In” shaped their careers.

When “Lean In” came out in 2013, landing on the best-seller list and propelling Ms. Sandberg onto the covers of Time and Fortune,…

Emma Goldberg

2022-06-02 19:49:55

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