Lean In

by Sheryl Sandberg


For me, vacation does not only mean exploring another country, but also reading books and thinking about interesting topics. During this holiday I got my hands on the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. If you haven't read it yet, run to the bookstore! If you can't wait, here are a few aspects I found particularly interesting.

Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder


Why do we call our careers a career ladder? People can only climb up and down or dismount. Unlike our parents, today we change our job like we change our underwear. The average American has 12 employers between the ages of 18–50 alone. On jungle gyms, on the other hand, creative expeditions are possible. On a ladder there is only one way to the top, on a jungle gym there are many ways. Only in this way did I find my professional happiness. I founded my company as a sideline in order to turn my communicative talent and my desire to travel into a career. Also in the years of developing my company, I learned that there are several ways to succeed and two years ago, I could not have guessed how this company would grow.


Done is better than perfect


Since I still had a full-time job, Sheryl Sandbergs motto "done is better than perfect" helped me too. Unattainable standards only obstruct. Instead of striving for perfection, I oriented myself towards working sustainably and towards subjects which fulfill me. Especially with travel guides like QueerBerlin, YogaBerlin, GDRBerlin or BeerBerlin I always dare to approach topics that I had left out before, but which I find exciting. The question is not, can I do all that? But is it important for me and do I want to do it.


I also find the aspect interesting that one (especially woman) often assumes that hard work and results are recognized by others. So far I have rarely experienced this. If this does not happen, it is simply necessary to speak up for oneself. Of course, one should find an appropriate manner.


Relentlessly pleasant


Men are allowed to keep an eye on their own success, while women are expected to be loyal. Even mere kindness is not a winning strategy. Being nice gives the impression that a woman is willing to sacrifice her salary to be liked by others. Therefore, a woman must combine kindness with perseverance."


Mary Sue Coleman calls this "relentlessly pleasant“. This method requires, that you often smile, express appreciation, invoke common interests, emphasize higher goals, and approache negotiation as a solution to a problem rather than a critical position. In relation to my company, I find it infinitely easier to advertise my guides than myself. Also in earlier salary negotiations or job interviews I spoke more about "our goals“ than about "my goal“.


Men sell (themself) better


Who likes to apply for a job? I already failed with my application. The article A business case for women, published in The McKinsey Quarterly by Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger and Mary C. Meany revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements. Today I actually think more often what a man would do or demand. It also helps me personally to set long-term dreams and short-term goals. This can be a travel guide publication or a skill I still want to acquire, or of course a holiday. If a written list doesn't feel obligatory enough, you can also tell it to your friends in order to commit yourself even more to your goals. It always helps with me.


Like will to like


This year, I had an exciting conversation with one of my dearest and most open former colleagues about the unfortunately low proportion of women in management positions. He thought that women were to be blamed for not being to ambitious. I see the problem more as a historical one. In the book Lean In I finally found a supporting study. Our tendency to want to work with people who are similar to us was proven by the consulting firm Innovisor in a survey in 29 countries: If men and women are to choose colleagues to work with, they are both significantly more likely to choose someone with the same gender (melissa korn choice of work partner splits along gender wall street journal june 2012). Mixed groups often perform better (Women at the wheel).


Raising Children


Sheryl Sandberg has met many ambitious women who thought they had to restrict themselves to make room for a child. A lawyer may decide not to become a partner because she hopes to have a family one day. The problem is that even if she were to become pregnant immediately, she would still have nine months before she actually had to care for a child. Women start mentally to prepare for a child, usually before they even try to have one. When the baby arrives, the woman is likely to be at a completely different stage in her career than she would have been if she had not withdrawn. I never actually thought about this, before I read the book.




The more satisfied a woman is with her job, the less likely she is to leave (link). From my point of view, it is also a question of willingness, i.e. whether the job is so attractive for the woman that she wants to go back at all. Another aspect is that the husband's salary is often higher, which is why the woman stays at home. Childcare is so expensive that it is not worth working. But you also have to consider the costs of the education as well as the possible future salary and the financial security (pension). If the woman has the desire to go back to her job and possibly to advance, this investment is worthwhile in any case. In this case, the cost of childcare should be seen as an investment in the future of the family.


Take my seat


In fact, I rarely thought about what I could do to get my boyfriend to do the laundry or take down the garbage. But to put myself in the perspective of the other, is another eye-opening tip. Just as we women need to strengthen our backs in our professional lives, we need to strengthen men backs at home. Women unintentionally prevent their husbands from doing their share of housework or raising children by too much control or criticism, which even has a name = maternal gatekeeping (link) But this is also why Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter answers the question of what men can do to encourage women to take on leadership roles with "the laundry" (link).




Sheryl Sandberg's last words in her book are beautiful and equally desirable: the success of each individual can make success a little easier for the following women. Her hope is that one day her son and her daughter will be able to decide what they want to do with their lives without external and internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their decisions. If her son wants to raise his children full time, then hopefully he will be respected and supported. If her daughter wants to work full time, she hopes that she will not only be respected and supported, but will also be liked because of her success.


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