Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college
graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of
leadership positions in government and industry. This means that
women's voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that
most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
examines why women's progress in achieving leadership roles has
stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling,
commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full
Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked
on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in
Business and as one of Time's 100 Most Influential People
in the World. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TEDTalk in which
she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in
their careers. Her talk, which became a phenomenon and has been
viewed more than two million times, encouraged women to "sit at the
table," seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with
In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues,
combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to
cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives
and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions,
mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for
herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice
on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying
career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of
"having it all." She describes specific steps women can take
to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and
demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the
workplace and at home.
Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg's book is an
inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth.
Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what
women can't do to what they can.
Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at
Facebook. Prior to Facebook, she was vice president of Global
Online Sales and Operations at Google and chief of staff at the
U.S. Treasury Department. Sheryl lives in Northern California with
her husband and their two children.
1. What does "lean in" mean? Why do you think women need to be
urged to lean in?
2. The first three words in the book are "I got pregnant." What
does this signal about the kind of business book Lean In
3. When Sandberg says, "The promise of equality is not the same
as true equality" (p. 7), what does she mean? Have you found this
statement to be accurate?
4. Why is "ambitious" often considered a derogatory word when
used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a
5. In chapter 2, Sandberg discusses the impostor syndrome:
feeling like a fraud, fearing discovery with each success. Why do
women feel this way more often than men do? What causes the gender
6. Sandberg believes that there are times when you can reach for
opportunities even if you are not sure you are quite ready to take
them on-and then learn by doing. Have you ever tried this?
What have you tried? What was the result?
7. What did you learn from the anecdote on page 36, about
keeping your hand up?
8. Why did Sandberg respond so negatively to being named the
fifth most powerful woman in the world?
9. When negotiating, Sandberg tells women to use the word "we"
rather than "I." Why does the choice of pronoun make such a
10. On page 48, Sandberg says, "I understand the paradox of
advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and
expectations." How do you feel about her advice?
11. What's your take on Sandberg's suggestion that we think of
the path to a satisfying career as a jungle gym rather than a
12. Sandberg argues that taking risks can be important in
building a career. How have you approached risk-taking in
13. Sandberg argues that mentorship relationships rarely happen
from asking strangers to mentor you, but rather from an opportunity
to engage with someone in a more substantive way. How has
mentorship worked in your own experience?
14. People who believe that they speak "the truth"
and not "their truth" can be very silencing of others,
Sandberg says on page 79. What does she mean by this?
15. When considering employment after motherhood, Sandberg
suggests that women shift the calculations and measure the current
cost of child care against their salary ten years from now. Why is
this a more effective perspective than just considering current
costs? If you're a parent, would this change your attitude toward
employment and money?
16. In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of "having it all,"
or even "doing it all," and points to a poster on the wall at
Facebook as a good motto: "Done is better than perfect." (p. 125)
What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find
17. Sandberg and her husband have different viewpoints about
parenting: She worries about taking too much time away from their
kids, while he's proud of the time he does spend with
them. Would it help women to adopt an attitude more like his?
18. In chapter 10, Sandberg discusses how the term "feminist"
has taken on negative connotations. Do you consider yourself a
19. Discuss this assertion: "Staying quiet and fitting in may
have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate
America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path.
But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead,
we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women
back, and find solutions" (pp. 146-47).
20. In the book's final chapter, Sandberg talks about the need
to work together to create equality-to allow women to thrive in the
workplace, and to allow men to participate proudly in the home and
child rearing. What steps can you take right now to begin to make
Sandberg--Facebook COO, ranked eighth on "Fortune"'s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business--has become one of America's most galvanizing leaders. She urges women to take risks and seek new challenges, to find work that they love, and to remain passionately engaged.