XX in Tech

Sheryl Sandberg Weighs In On ‘Having It All’ With a New Book Encouraging Women Toward Leadership Roles

Move over, "Live your best life," there's a new inspirational catchphrase in town.
 Sheryl Sandberg Weighs In On Having It All With a New Book Encouraging Women Toward Leadership Roles

(Photo: The Atlantic)

Back in April, we threw a question out to female readers: Are you a Sheryl or a Marissa? This was three months before Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo, proudly proclaiming her new employer’s “evolved” attitude towards to her pregnancy (she gave birth this week) even as she vowed to work through her maternity leave–already shortened to just a few weeks.

That kind of work-first decision was hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with the perky Type A executive, who “doesn’t believe in burnout.” But we’ve always been relieved there was another role model for a woman in tech–or any field, really–who wanted to ascend to leadership positions. That’s why we jumped on Sheryl Sandberg’s confession (that she leaves the office at 5.30 to have dinner with her kids) like it was a life raft, especially coming from the Facebook COO responsible for slowly transforming “Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture,” as chronicled by The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta last year.

This is all a long way of saying that Ms. Sandberg seems like a much-needed voice to jump into the debate–still churning on magazine covers and in blog posts–about the challenges faced by female leaders and ways to realistically change the ratio. Despite Ms. Sandberg’s critical role in shepherding Facebook toward profitability, for example, Ms. Sandberg was denied a board seat until this June.

This summer, we reported that Ms. Sandberg was working on a book about career advice (hopefully addressing that egregious oversight). Today, her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf is offering more details. The book, called “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” will go on sale March, 12, 2013, and was written “to encourage women to aspire to and pursue leadership roles,” according to the press release. That explains why she’s been working so hard to make “lean in,” her catchphrase!

Knopf chairman Sonny Mehta, said the book will give “a frank assessment of what it will take for women to move forward as equals to men.” From the press release at least, it sounds practical, yet motivational, not unlike Ms. Sandberg herself:

“Progress for women in the leadership ranks of every industry has been largely stagnant for the past decade.  We can and must do better. The question we all have to ask ourselves is ‘How?,’” Sandberg says.

In Lean In, Sandberg offers her insights on women, work, family, and ambition.  A mother of two, she offers specific advice to help women better integrate professional achievement with personal fulfillment, including how to forge more equitable relationships with their partners at home.  This advice will resonate for women at all stages of their careers.

Sandberg also speaks with candor about her own personal and professional experiences, addressing conflicts she has encountered and mistakes she has made along the way. She argues that true equality for women still eludes us, buttressing her argument with salient data and research.

Sandberg says, “I wrote Lean In so women can make more informed choices and increase their chances of making it to the top of any field or pursue any goal with gusto. And I wrote it for men who want to understand the challenges women face so they can do their part to build an equal world.”

“I believe we need to talk about and change the real obstacles women still face in the professional world,” says Sandberg. “This book offers ideas and tools to help women overcome these obstacles, whether they’re the result of sexism or institutional discrimination; our tendency to hold ourselves back, lack confidence, or lower our hands and voices; or our willingness to internalize messages that tell us it’s wrong for women to be outspoken or powerful.  Women do not have to lower our expectations of what we can achieve in the workplace.  In so many situations, instead of pulling back, we should be leaning in.”

We’re sure the fear-mongering cover-line savants at The Atlantic will have their hands full trying to come up with a rejoinder.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com