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Realities of 'Leaning In'

(42 Posts)
porsmork Tue 14-Mar-17 19:50:58

I'd be really curious to start a discussion about the realities and challenges women have faced when 'Leaning In' within their workplace.
What definition does 'Leaning In' have for you?
Has it worked with your employer- have you received what you asked for or become more fulfilled by the mindset?
Have you faced challenges around it from employers or colleagues? Anything you've tried that backfired or failed?

In my experience, I felt very determined after reading about the concept, and others like it, and feel very strongly that women have a right to be at the table and involved in all areas of business and professional life. However, upon acting upon some of the concepts, I actually found myself backing away more from professional life in order to seek a better balance between work and family.

Would be interested to hear what wisdom MN has on the matter.

StealthPolarBear Tue 14-Mar-17 19:51:53

Marking place

Stillwishihadabs Tue 14-Mar-17 19:58:08

For me leaning in is not assuming that i have the main carer role, so actively accepting meetings and opportunities that are good for my career but might be inconvienent. Then worrying about childcare afterwards (you know like a man would).

QuentinSummers Tue 14-Mar-17 20:29:12

I flipping hate "Lean In". There is research to suggest women are penalised for behaviours that are rewarded in men so the whole premise is flawed (and is victim blaming nonsense and also Sheryl Sanders comes across to me as unbelievably smug with no real concept of the privilege she has).

Essentially it's like a lot of diet/self help type books and tries to sell an easy solution to a fairly intractable problem.

I read this the other day which was interesting

ChocChocPorridge Tue 14-Mar-17 21:00:22

Quentin - there's an example of institutional sexism for you - the intro to that article:

A guy called Martin Schneider did an email experiment to find out how differently women are treated to men after one of his staff kept getting a shitty time from a client

Except, as Martin says in the second tweet:

Nicole and I worked for a small employment service firm and one complaint always came from our boss: She took too long to work with clients.

They were colleagues. Yet The Poke (and CNBC) both described him as her boss.. nice.. (other news outlets got it right, including, unbelievably, the Daily Mail)

OpalFruitsMarathonsandSpira Tue 14-Mar-17 21:10:04

He was her supervisor, choc. Would that not make her one of his staff?

ChocChocPorridge Tue 14-Mar-17 21:27:28

Oop. Missed that...

TBH though, the fact that he starts out by describing her as a colleague would have been the run I'd have taken if I were writing it, not that he was her boss - that isn't how he wrote it himself - he seems to describe himself as senior, supervisory colleague rather than manager..

But it is a subtle difference, and it is heavily influenced by my own colleagues, many of whom I am senior to, and even have to assign work to but I wouldn't describe myself as their boss - I'm boss of the work, not of them.

PeanutJuice Tue 14-Mar-17 21:33:53

Do you have any recommendations on readings regarding your post? I agree women are often judged negatively on traits that are praised in men. I would love to know if there are any texts on how to combat this

ThomasRichard Tue 14-Mar-17 21:44:07

Leaning in is complete balls IME. It means that I take calls, do telcos and am expected to be on calls at all hours and am therefore sleep deprived, stressed and a bad mother. Why the heck should I have to pretend to be a man to do well in my accidentally-chosen career?

ThomasRichard Tue 14-Mar-17 21:44:47

*on emails

^more evidence of sleep deprivation wink

MaybeDoctor Tue 14-Mar-17 21:56:21

Personally, I lean out. grin

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Tue 14-Mar-17 21:58:45

Agree with most of what's been said above, especially regarding women being penalised for behaviour that's seen as normal in men (don't ask for a rise, don't get, do ask for a rise and you're a ball-breaking pushy bitch - can't win either way).

I saw a fascinating TED talk by a very rare example of a woman CEO (to my shame I can't remember who - someone at work linked to it) which debunked it. Her thesis was fascinating. The talk was roughly along the following lines. "You're going for that step from middle management to board level. You get mentored. They give you all this advice about soft skills - how to lean in, how to push for what you want without seeming pushy, how to be as assertive as a man while not being noticed to be doing so. They don't tell you what's actually needed for the interview - a massively sound grasp of the company's business strategy, economic projections, place in the market, strategies relative to its major competitors - the big picture stuff that marks the move from middle management to board level. People are so busy assuming that the problem is going to be 'how to be a woman in a way that's acceptable to men' that they take their eye off the ball..." It was a very interesting talk - basically arguing that lean in was a form of victim blaming which distracted women from focusing on the skills they really needed.

QueenLaBeefah Tue 14-Mar-17 22:02:35

I lean out. In my experience leaning in (for a woman) often means getting all the shit work dumped on you.

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 22:06:10

I liked it, but I know many didnt.

Its applicability is certainly narrow, which SS doesn't acknowledge, but so are plenty of other management books written by men. It's a helpful but not perfect career tract. Plenty of more mediocre books out there, but it's not a holy grail.

SteppingOnToes Tue 14-Mar-17 22:07:01

What on earth is leaning in?

QuentinSummers Tue 14-Mar-17 22:13:01

peanut (haven't read this but have read a book chapter about coaching women that referenced it and it was fascinating. It talked about the line between helping women realise how work culture could be holding them back while not suggesting it was the woman's own fault)

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Tue 14-Mar-17 22:28:31

I don't think this is a Lean In vs Lean Out situation, surely if we want to advance, then being aware of structural inequalities in the workplace and the unequal demands of capitalist culture, and personally leaning in are not incompatible. To Sheryl Sandberg's credit, she never pretends different, in fact she has a whole chapter dedicated to the fact that if a woman leans in to demanding more money and negotiating harder, she will be perceived badly when a man won't, and her advice is pitched within that context and is not ignorant of it at all.

Sheryl's book is individualistic and comes from a place of privilege and doesn't offer societal change, but the thing is, neither do most left-leaning academics who are very good at critically analysing this capitalist trope, but not very good at suggesting ways around it, if you want to increase women's power and presence in that workplace (or indeed in other places outside of it) and have very little to say about advancing breaking down inequalities for the poorest women, other than pointing to it.

Personally, I have Leaned In and got kicked in the teeth, not being promoted when I knew men who had got promoted only months before with a less good portfolio, but in my case, I did want the extra money and the advancement, so Leaned In again and eventually did get there. I have also Leaned Out in the same time period by cutting back all the 'nice' things I used to do out of the goodness of my heart and to be a team player before I realised my employer wasn't nearly as fussed about me as I was about being loyal to them. That has made for a nicer work/life balance which still allows me to advance but without the mental or physical sacrifice that completely Leaning In would imply. I also try to encourage women particularly as so many of them lack confidence, despite their high achievements, and nothing seems to have shifted there in the last 20 years that much. The final thing that seems to be making the difference is critical mass, we have reached a tipping point, where there are enough women in my organization that some have to get promoted, some have to go into senior management and so on just through sheer numbers, and it is thanks to those earlier group of women Leaning In that we are able to see wider cultural change on a small scale where I work.

bluejelly Tue 14-Mar-17 22:52:32

I found it a useful viewpoint and it certainly encouraged me to speak up more in meetings, to encourage other women to speak up more and to call out sexism whenever I see it. I have never wanted what she has though - an all-consuming, high-powered high profile role. Moderate success is fine by me smile

illegitimateMortificadospawn Tue 14-Mar-17 23:57:21

I've not read it, but it was discussed in my learning set on a women's leadership course. One of the most contentious topics was getting partners to lean in & take on their fair share of the domestic chores and 'wife work'. Those of us with kids also pointed out how much harder it got with kids in the mix & how you need a partner to step up. Our learning set met periodically over a few months & one of the women split from her long term partner off the back of our discussions - she'd realised she was doing everything & he had no interest in changing.

OpalFruitsMarathonsandSpira Wed 15-Mar-17 03:55:15

ChocChocPorridge Tha you for the explanation. I don't work in an office environment so I was not sure about that. It is a fascinating piece of anecdotal evidence. I used to run my own business and communication was polite, but slow.

Want2bSupermum Wed 15-Mar-17 04:20:02

I have a few issues with leaning in. I have leaned into my career and honestly I am looking for a new job because the reward isn't there for the work I am doing now.

I am lucky to be working here in the US where there are more women in work and in middle/upper management compared to the UK however a good number of those women have made significant personal sacrifices that I don't see men making.

Reading the book it dawned on me that Sheryl Sandberg is really quite young and working under Larry Summers is not a role everyone gets to apply for (not that she even applied for it). If she had tried to work her way up in the workplace rather than in an academic setting I do not know if she would have reached the top. She also had mentors watching out for her and a well connect DH to help her meet those who matter.

As someone who experiences sexism on a regular basis because I have leaned in, I honestly think as a woman you are better off sometimes leaning out and if you want to get ahead starting your own company on the side. For the past 3 months, as an auditor I have been given the absolute most challenging schedule out of everyone I know. I am running a smaller engagement (which has 3 financial statements plus 2 regulatory reports so not that small) and working on a big client with 5 material weaknesses. My peers do not have the same workload as me nor are they held to the same standard of work hence I am leaving to find a role that is 40 or so hours a week, earning about the same as I earn now, and I will use my free time to start a business so I can be my own boss.

What I have learned is that on the teams I have been working on its an old boys club and the women who are accepted as the 'office darlings' who are deemed as acceptable women to promote. Its like they promote the women who they can keep in check, so leaning in does you no good at all.

Disappointednomore Wed 15-Mar-17 04:55:50

Since the death of her husband Sheryl Sandberg has apologised for many of the assumptions she made about what is possible and has said how much harder it is to lean in as a single parent. I read and enjoyed Lean In - it was made clear that it was aimed at a very specific set of women and much of it was well considered. Like many self help books I think if you can just take one or two helpful affirming ideas then it's no bad thing. I agree with a pp that taking opportunities and worrying about childcare etc afterwards is a key thing and I say this as a lone parent for whom this isn't always straightforward. I remember SS said that she attended a talk about women succeeding in the workplace and a man asked "what can we do to help?" "The laundry" came the reply.

HelenDenver Wed 15-Mar-17 09:41:15

I'm sure if Mark Zuckerberg wrote a book (he might have done!) it would be from his position of privilege too.

YetAnotherSpartacus Wed 15-Mar-17 10:20:28

How does leaning in approach the glass ceiling?

Alice212 Wed 15-Mar-17 10:24:14

Interesting to hear she has apologised
I note she suddenly thought about bereavement policy when it happened to it never happened to anyone else before. Grr.

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