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Has anyone read 'Lean Out'?

(28 Posts)
Sadik Tue 02-Feb-16 10:06:11

by Dawn Foster. It looks interesting as a riposte to the whole 'Lean in' thing (a la Xenia) which never quite does it for me.

EBearhug Tue 02-Feb-16 11:42:40

Have just ordered it on Kindle.

I have read Lean Out which is edtied by Elissa Shevinsky - the summary of that one is, why are we all bending over backwards to fit in with a culture which is actually no good for anyone?

EBearhug Tue 02-Feb-16 11:43:26


VimFuego101 Tue 02-Feb-16 11:46:21

I enjoyed 'lean in' but I did think the onus was on 'fitting in' to a somewhat sexist culture rather than challenging it at times. Downloaded a sample of this one.

Sadik Tue 02-Feb-16 12:06:03

That essay collection looks really interesting, bearhug - don't have a kindle but will see if I can track it down

Sadik Tue 02-Feb-16 12:07:49

I think I'm innately a bit wary of '28 year old journalists' (women or men) (I know, ageist and careerist), have read too many very superficial analyses - your book looks potentially based on a bit more experience

Millionprammiles Tue 02-Feb-16 12:15:34

Dawn Foster in the Guardian today. She makes a fair point I think that the media focuses too much on Sandberg and her ilk when the real issues lie elsewhere.
There needs to be a significant culture shift from seeing childcare in particular as a 'women's' issue, to a 'parental' issue.

More men need to feel enabled and encouraged to take shared parental leave, request flexible or part-time working etc. They need to feel frowned on for NOT leaving work to do the pick up instead of the reverse.

Countries where parenting is shared more equally (eg Sweden) rely as much on cultural expectations as they do on legislation, affordable childcare etc.

But how do we change the long hours, presenteeism culture?

EBearhug Tue 02-Feb-16 13:04:39

I read the first two chapters over lunch. I like it so far.

EBearhug Tue 02-Feb-16 13:11:07

But how do we change the long hours, presenteeism culture?

Sometimes by leading the way. When I started at my current company, a colleague said some time later, it was a good thing, because he didn't feel obliged to stay until our manager had left. I just left at a time which meant I'd be ready for my evening class or exercise class if I had one that evening. It had never occurred to me that some people might have a problem with that.

slugseatlettuce Tue 02-Feb-16 20:33:49

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EBearhug Wed 03-Feb-16 11:39:58

I finished reading it - it's not very long, but it raises a lot of good points. Bit depressing in places, mind you!

slightlyglitterbrained Wed 03-Feb-16 19:58:28

See, maybe I am a man then, because I don't get the Lean In hate. It won't be in the timiest bit relevant to many - but in expecting it to be, aren't we effectively putting a much higher burden on any woman in the public eye, of having to speak for everyone, not just herself, or be criticised for not being some mythical perfect everywoman?

This quote from the article seems to be setting up a convenient strawman: "Rather than change the system, they’ve colluded with it, and propped it up by appealing to others to do so, suggesting that this is possible for all women."

I fucking hated the article. To me it said "Woman, know your place. Don't be a selfish bitch. You don't deserve anything that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could possibly interpret as you receiving "more" than any other woman. You aren't allowed to claim you care about shitty social policy that disadvantages women, AND also feel pissed off that fuckwit guy got the promotion instead of you. You only get to pick one, and if you pick the latter - fuck you, you're really a man."

bigkidsdidit Wed 03-Feb-16 20:05:17

I thought that article was dreadful.

bigkidsdidit Wed 03-Feb-16 20:09:26

I think there is a place for feminists fighting for social equality, and a place for feminists fighting for affordable housing, and a place for feminists fighting to get women on ftse100 boards. I don't see why someone has to speak for every woman everywhere to be worth listening to. as long as someone is doing their bit to promote and help women - even a subset of women - that's alright by me. I think a lot of the hate for Lean In comes from women holding other women up to impossible standards.

slightlyglitterbrained Wed 03-Feb-16 20:30:46

Incidentally, I would agree that the very individualist Xenia approach doesn't do it for me, but I think there is quite a lot of distance between Xenia-style and "Lean In", where there are interesting and valuable discussions to be had that are actually very useful and make significant differences to women's real lives. You don't actually have to be some CEO level superstar to find some of the Lean In advice very practical and usable, you just need to be working with people, on some thing, and want alternatives to full on confrontation.

slugseatlettuce Wed 03-Feb-16 20:32:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bigkidsdidit Wed 03-Feb-16 20:43:30

I found lean in hugely useful, and I even dropped to part time afterwards, so it wasn't like I started 'acting like a man'. I tried very hard to realise and be proud of my work and how good I was st it. I stopped apologising st work, started sitting near the chair at meetings and spoke up more. All of which has been very useful. And I put in for promotion and it was supported by my bosses (I had previously thought it was too early).

slightlyglitterbrained Wed 03-Feb-16 21:29:08

Yes, I did read Lean In. My takeaways (I should re-read it, been a few years), were some really handy advice on how to work around the impossible double-bind of women not asking for raises therefore not getting them, but then being penalised for being cheeky bitches if they do ask for them. That you shouldn't feel guilty about going for promotion before TTC, while TTC, or having conceived, if you want to. But that it's also fine if you don't want to.

And that people will believe the signals you give them - if all your body language is telling people "I don't deserve to be here" then they literally won't see you. Yes, sitting at the table might still get you ignored/shot down in flames. But I just do not get equating normal levels of assertiveness with masculinity. I am not a man.

Agreed that it's a feminist self-help book about how women can get on at work. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I don't really get how Dawn Foster thinks it's equivalent to cutting benefits for women who dare to have a third child without being raped. Other than that taking potshots at prominent women gets you a lot of publicity because publishers love a catfight. hmm

I do think that there is a lot of very practical advice that helps women to work around the root causes of why women are held back at work, rather than running full tilt into them. Yes, the root causes need to be called out as what they are and there is a very important role for people who do that loud and clear. (But I'd prefer if they did it without focusing all their attacks on women first and foremost.)

But if you're sat in a management meeting, there are ways that you can walk out of the meeting with better conditions for parents in your company, and women in your company, and there are ways that you can walk out with nothing, but with everybody feeling hurt and accused. Politically, I'm in favour of calling it as it is. Practically, when it comes down to direct action, sitting at the table and knowing how the dynamics work, knowing what will get shut down as unconstructive, what will go whistling over people's heads, knowing what will reframe the whole discussion in a way that has the senior guys in the room saying "well of COURSE we can't do that - it would be unfair!".

That's much more "corporate", but it actually directly affects women's lives. (And I felt fucking good about it. Sorry for being unspecific, but massively outing. A minor victory on the grand scale of things, I'm not senior, but it was something I could do and did. So, there you go. Lean In made some women's lives better, and they weren't rich or high flying super senior executives.)

EBearhug Wed 03-Feb-16 21:30:25

I do enjoy our Lean-In sessions at work (I enjoy most sessions at work where there aren't any men, as they're such a rarity.) I also agree with Sheryl saying one of the most important career decisions you can make is who you marry. But I also think she doesn't recognise that having a Harvard education and having friends in high places are advantages that many women simply don't have.

Yes, women can do things to help themselves as individuals - but also the system is balanced against women, and if we're not prepared to try and change the whole culture, then only a few women are ever likely to benefit. As the Lean Out book says, you can't negotiate your pay if you're on a fixed rate, zero hours contract - you will just end up with not getting any hours rotaed, because you're seen as trouble, and you're not actually sacked, so you can't look for other work or claim benefits, but you've not actually got any guarantee of an income either. I suspect someone whose background includes two Harvard degrees and interning at the Whitehouse has never been in that sort of position.

slightlyglitterbrained Wed 03-Feb-16 21:57:25

There is very little of anything that you can do as an individual on a fixed rate, zero hours contract. That's why successive Conservative governments have done their best to kill off the unions. Insecure employment is normal for everyone else in my family except me, unfortunately.

There are definite structural barriers, but in the case of the fucking shithole depressed post-industrial area I grew up in, poverty of aspiration is a real hurtful thing that stops people feeling they even deserve decent treatment. It's actually one of the worst things you can do to people - fuck over their heads, so they cage themselves in, and you don't have to exert as much energy stamping them down. I don't think raising aspirations is a bad thing at all so it bugs me when it's quoted as some fluffy, weak thing (generally, not directly on this thread). It's massive.

Sadik Thu 04-Feb-16 08:10:28

I sit somewhere on the fence with this one. I do 'get' the lean in thing; I used to have a somewhat corporate job, and it frustrated me when I saw other women, often much more qualified than me, getting passed over because they weren't making the same demands / speaking up in the same way that men did. I'd be sitting there thinking 'look, for god's sake just tell him to fuck off when he asks you to do his typing, really, just do it'.

But then at the same time I know it was only my background & circumstances that gave me the confidence to behave the way I did. I can really see why Sheryl Sandberg is trying to help other women in those roles to ask for and get what they deserve.

OTOH, I think it is vitally important not to lose sight that the system as it stands is biased against women and working class people, and in favour of a certain type of person - ie a white private school/Oxbridge educated man. Unless we tackle this systemic problem, we'll only ever be tinkering at the margins, and (and for me this is the critical point), getting more women in positions of power won't substantially help other women lower down the food chain.

Millionprammiles Thu 04-Feb-16 08:45:00

The 'trickle down effect' argument has never been sustainable IMO, either when applied to individual's earnings or women's career progression.

What's driving women out of their chosen careers?
- inflexible work hours/location
- expensive/scarce childcare
- school hours/terms
- long commutes (driven by housing costs) making all of the above harder
- assumptions that their careers rather than their partners should take the hit (often influenced by mat leave impacting career progression or men are still not being treated equally when requesting part-time/flexible working or shared parental leave).

A handful of senior execs asking for a payrise/promotion or speaking up at meetings will make little difference to the issues affecting the majority of women driven out of the workplace.

Its not really a case of whether Lean In is right or wrong - I just don't think its that relevant.

slightlyglitterbrained Thu 04-Feb-16 10:21:26

So, using Lean In during negotiations for flexible working for everyone (not senior people, not middle management, not even management) isn't relevant?

Millionprammiles Thu 04-Feb-16 12:03:46

For many there simply aren't any negotiations on flexible working to Lean In to.
Negotiation requires leverage on both sides. If you're worried for your job, worried about being branded a troublemaker, have no means to take your employer to a tribunal, you might not feel empowered to challenge your employer when they reject your request (which the law permits them to do).

slugseatlettuce Thu 04-Feb-16 19:58:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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