Lean In—My Thoughts As A Woman In The Workforce

11:45 AM

I just finished "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg and MAN OH MAN I have so much to say and so many thoughts about this book. It hit me in such a personal and profound way—it's one of those books that has made me evaluate my professional and personal life in a very intimate way and I'm not sure I'll ever be entirely the same.

I just have so much I want to share about my experiences as a woman, wife, and mother that works.

Be prepared, this is going to be a long one. Also, I'm not saying any of these things to toot my own horn or anything. This stuff is REAL and it needs to be talked about so women in the workforce have better opportunities and brighter futures.

I have worked in a mid-sized company with a few thousand employees. I have worked at a tiny startup. I have worked for a giant global company with hundreds of thousands of employees. I've worked in news, auto, tech, and I currently work for a large university. Offices and colleagues are all different, but I found so many things that Sheryl talked about rang SO TRUE for my experiences. In both positive, and negative ways.

The Not-So-Great Parts
Unfortunately, I have seen some of the not-so-great parts of being a woman in the workforce. It's things that I was upset about, but reading Lean In gave me actual understanding of what happened, why it happened, and that it happened to many women.

Sheryl talks about employees talking about raises or leaving the company for a promotion. Men are usually encouraged and patted on the back for improving their career. Women are seen as disloyal. This BLEW MY MIND because at one point in my career, I left a company for a better, more prestigious, higher paying position. I was told I was disloyal. It cut me so deeply that wanting to be paid competitively and wanting a job with more responsibility would make my current employer say I was disloyal.

I worked in an industry where sexism was rampant, where women were passed over for jobs they were qualified for because a less qualified man got along better with the male boss. I've seen women be called bossy, seen female coworkers turn on each other to fight for position and promise.

I've felt the sting of being disliked because I was highly competent at my job and successful.

I've witnessed women and men in the exact same role, with the exact same qualifications, make different amounts of money (the women less, of course.)

I have seen women shy away from talking about their accomplishments, fearing it will make them disliked by colleagues.

Like Sheryl, I understand that organizations are not going to change overnight, that cultural norms and society won't change instantly.

I have seen myself put up preventative measures that have sometimes held back my career. I haven't always taken risks. I've made choices that may have been premature.

But in spite of the negative things I have seen and even the role I played in holding myself back at times, I'm so insanely grateful for my career because it has gotten me where I am today. And I could not be happier.

The Amazing Parts
While I've seen some hard things, and even held back myself in some ways, I have been SO lucky in my career.

I have worked for insanely amazing women who have shown me what women can achieve. When I told all THREE of my female superiors that I was pregnant, they were so amazing. They were excited for me, and their first instinct was to let me know that if I wanted to come back to work they would 100% help me find a way to do it. I look up to these women so much and am blessed to have worked for them, and with them. I watched all of them, mothers themselves, handle working and motherhood with amazing strength. They inspired me professionally and personally, as I understood how I could be like them. My own mom is one of these women who worked on and off during my life, and has recently gone back to school to further her education and move up in her career.

I have worked with fantastic women who have bolstered my career and made me feel like I could succeed. I look up to all of them SO much.

I have worked with and for wonderful men who have been supportive, kind, and focused on helping me succeed.

My current bosses are out of this WORLD. I can't express how lucky I am with my current job. Everyone in my office has been so understanding and awesome about my boundaries and needs being a mother. They allow me to work from home, to work during the hours I am able, encourage me to come into the office and sit at the table for important meetings, and set an amazing example for me with their own families and career drive. I can't say enough how much my managers and co-workers make my current working experience a dream come true. I love working, being involved with meetings, coming up with creative solutions to problems, finding success, maintaining work friendships, and still have the ability to be at home with G man. For me, that's the perfect balance and I feel SO lucky to work for a company that helps me achieve that.

And last but certainly not least, is Randy. Randy is a TRUE PARTNER and I can't express how grateful I am for him. I have been the primary, or only, breadwinner for our family since we have been married. Not ONE time has that made Randy feel less-than. He has always been wildly supportive of my career. From taking new jobs, working late, business trips, venting about my day, taking meetings from home, all of it has been with his 100% support. I never have questioned if Randy would be OK with me working or not working; it's been clear from day 1 that whatever I wanted or felt I needed to do work-wise would be perfectly great with him. When we had Graham I knew that if I wanted to stay home full-time, he would help make it happen. I knew if I wanted to work in the office full-time, he would help make it happen.

Not only is he supportive of my career, but he's taken on his share of home-responsibilities as well. Cooking dinner, handling dishes, laundry, and now helping share childcare responsibilities, he has tackled them all.

Randy doesn't babysit Graham. He is his parent, always. And that's the case when I'm working, and when I'm not.

On top of his school work and sometimes his own job, Randy has always been happy to take on domestic responsibilities. I can't express how lucky I am with him.

As a wife and mother my job is to utilize Randy, to share responsibilities with him when it comes to parenting and domestic work so that we can both accomplish our dreams, whether that's working or something else!

As I read Lean In, my appreciation for him and his support of my decisions grew exponentially. I didn't realize before how crucial it is to find a true partner, and above almost anything else, that is what I love the most about Randy.

Basically, Lean In is a fantastic book. Sheryl STRESSES that her path isn't the path for everyone. She recognizes that not all women want to work, not all women want to have children, and not all women want both. That's COMPLETELY fine. She stresses that our job as women is to help support women and their right to make choices about what they want to do with their life. And our other job is to not hold ourselves back in any way.

Just read the book guys. It's amazing.

And to all the women out there, mothers or not mothers, working or not working, I see you. You matter and the work you are doing at home, or in an office, or both, is important. It's so valuable and you are doing GREAT. Don't let anyone tell you that your choices are wrong or bad. You do what's best for YOU and I will support you however I can.

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