Sep 26

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Book Review

Lean-In-Sheryl-SandbergThe first time that I really took notice of Sheryl Sandberg was when she wrote a Facebook post about losing her husband (this was back in 2015). I am not sure exactly what it was about that post, but I remember thinking about it for days on end, and hoping that things turn out all right for this person, who came on my radar only because of this unfortunate incident.

However, ever since then, I have been following the news and updates about her, including her interviews and TED Talks. So when I finally got to reading (in my case listening to) her book – Lean In, I kinda had an idea of what I was getting into, and I must say that the book did live up to the expectations I had of it.

Lean In – What’s it about? 

Lean In, as Sheryl Sandberg describes it, is ‘sort of a feminist manifesto’, and now that I’ve read the book, I must say that this is an important disclaimer, that many people either ignore or overlook.

I say this because this book has been heavily criticized for alienating a lot of women, while pretending to represent them. However, I don’t agree with this POV. I personally don’t think that the author had any illusions of representing everyone.

In-fact right from the very beginning it was pretty clear that this book is mostly focused on women who are/want to be a part of the workforce.

Now that doesn’t meant that other women (or men for that matter) won’t be able to get anything out of it. All it means is that the author never pretended to speak on behalf of everyone, because no one can.

Also, while it does focus on the women who want to build a career for themselves, it’s not a guide on how to climb the career ladder. In-fact, the author insists that these days there is no ladder to climb, and that you must look at your career as a jungle gym instead – bouncing from one great opportunity to the other.

The one thing that I really liked about this book is that the author gives a lot of examples from her personal and professional life, which makes her easy to relate to. I personally could relate to a lot of things she was saying, even though we do not have much in common (or anything at all, really)- not the socio-economic background, not even the same stage or phase of life.

So honestly, when I hear some reviewers saying that this book is only for the super elite, who can afford full time nannies, while they go jet-setting around the world, I don’t know what they are talking about.

Lean In – On Feminism

This book is a great conversation starter when it comes to feminism. I know some people say that she is blaming the victim, by preaching to the women, but that’s not what she is doing at all.

She is just attempting to give women an insight into the workings of their own mind by giving examples of how some of us might have internalized patriarchy (even though we are fighting against it), and how it translates in our thoughts and actions.

She also attempted to clarify what feminism truly means, and I am so glad she did that. Because feminism is such a misunderstood word, that even though it might be aggravating at times, we need people to clear the air every now and again.

However, what truly struck a chord with me was her admission that as evolved as she thought she was, there was a time that she did not like to be called a feminist. Because in her mind, the term had negative connotations.

And we see it all the time, right? Feminists being called all the names under the sun, including being labelled as Feminazis. All to protect the patriarchal system, which clearly the men don’t want to do away with, because after all this system entitles them all sorts of benefits and privileges for doing absolutely nothing. They just have to be born male, and the socio-cultural-economic system is already rigged in their favor. Which even if it’s not acceptable, is understandable (why the men may feel the way they do, I mean).

But when women feel that fighting for equal rights makes them into monsters, just because the society tells them so, there is a problem. And it’s a problem that we must address right now. We must not let the society or anyone else decide what’s right or wrong for us. We should be the only ones who decide that.

The author urges women to keep the above definition in mind, when the society tries to dictate what you should feel and how you should act, and why you shouldn’t fight for your rights.

My One Complaint

As much as I loved this book, there are a couple of issues I am conflicted on, and one of them is the author’s praise for Marissa Mayer, who became CEO of Yahoo whilst heavily pregnant, and then built a daycare centre for her son in her office.

Here is the thing, I am all for women empowerment, and I have nothing against women working while they are pregnant or even after having kids, and if anyone is able to figure out a way to do both successfully, more power to them.

However in her support of Mayer, the author chose to ignore Mayer’s decision to ban working from home and demanding everyone come into the office to work. I am sure this includes women who would be mothers, who unlike Mayer, don’t have the option to build a personal day care around their cabins and cubicles. What happens to these women then?

And I get it, if she felt this was critical for revamping Yahoo, that’s fine. But I just cannot and will not see her as a feminist role model who I would cheer for. So when Sandberg asks women to support her instead of criticizing her, she is clearly not seeing both sides of the coin.

All in All:

In-spite of my disagreement with the author on some issues, I feel like this is a book everyone must read. Yes, everyone, not just women, but the men too. Because we need everyone’s participation for building an equal world.

And no, I am not suggesting that this is the book that will revolutionize the deep-set gender stereotypes. It will not. It is merely a step in the right direction. But this is a step that we all must take, on a journey to a more equal world.

So begin here, read this. Get this book from Amazon here – Lean In.

That’s all from my end folks. Have you read Lean In? How did you find the book? Do share! I’d love to hear from you guys.


I don’t think I’ever mentioned this here, or anywhere else really, because this was mostly a personal online (yes I see the contradiction here) way of record-keeping, but I have a Tumblr blog where I note down all my favorite quotes from all the books I’ve read (ever since I started this blog 3 years back that is). Here is the link to my Tumblr quote blog if you are interested.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy on the site through this link, I will get a referral fee, at no additional cost to you. If you do use the link – thank you for your support.


  1. As always your book review packs quite a punch Shantala – Its heartening to read such a well balanced pro/con review!!! Not sure if I will pick it up for a read but super impressed by your review
    SHALINI BAISIWALA recently posted…Purify your thoughts [ #Guestpost ]My Profile

  2. Your grouse about Marissa Meyer is my grouse too. In fact, I was horrified when she took the decision. As I work from home, I did not want Marissa to set an example for other companies to follow. Thankfully, it did not become popular. Some roles require in office presence.. but not all. I also remember the facebook post written by Sheryl. It was teary.

  3. I’ve been wanting to read this since ages! I’m placing an order for it right away.

    You have done a beautiful review, Shantala. So detailed and yet so precise.
    Soumya recently posted…Book Review: Winter GardenMy Profile

  4. Have heard a lot about this book. I loved the insights that you have shared from this book viz jungle gym, feminism…
    Thanks for the recommendation, Shantala, this book has been added in my TBR!!
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Instant Noodles Myths DebunkedMy Profile

  5. Fabulous review, Shantala. I have not read this but will be adding it to my TBR shelf. I think it’s important for corporations to be flexible when it comes to their employees needs and that means some work from home options. That said, I’m not a VP f a corporation 😛 This book overall, sounds like a solid read and educational.
    lisa thomson recently posted…Please forgive meMy Profile

  6. The chasm between feminists and feminazis is as much as that of the Grand Canyon. Not to open a can of worms, but we know both types exist 🙂

    Lean In is a must-read for everyone, regardless of gender. However, the reader needs a certain maturity level to accept what she writes. I’d shared this book with a few women my old office, hoping it would make them feel empowered. But they stopped reading half-way through the first chapter with a “This is just not possible” dialogue.

    The book is fantastic; I was shattered when Dave lost his life. He’s been such a powerful force contributing to her success, like she was for his. How Sheryl has stood up to empower the female gender is awe-striking. The best concept I liked in this book was this: Equality can only be achieved when women represent 50% of the work force and men do 50% of the domestic chores.

    • You are not opening a can of worms, I completely agree that both kinds exist. That is true for most things, every cause has extremists. And it is as much for those extremists as it is for the people who discount feminists/feminism that they try to understand the concept at its core.

      As far as this book is concerned, what you experienced, is something that I have come across as well. Many of my friends & acquaintances have given up on it saying that she is blaming the victim. I guess blaming someone else is easier than introspection.
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – Book ReviewMy Profile

  7. I’d been seeing this book doing the rounds on social media but nowhere did I find a review as lucid as yours. I wasn’t sure it was my type of book but now I want to take a look. Sounds like a decent read.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…Finally, A Reader!My Profile

  8. I love love love the book. It really resonated with me. As a career woman and a mother, we all faced the decisions and conflicts she faced. Like you, it was amazing that I could relate to so much of her life and her experiences. As I never do book reviews, I remember writing a party on women and career. What she has spoken about is a long distance from being achieved but I am glad that vocalized a lot of it thoughts and wishes.

  9. A review I completely agree with. I read this in April last year and loved it. I had the same views about the book and couldn’t understand the criticism of it either. Maybe I could relate to it better, being a mom? I don’t know. But I did enjoy the book a good deal.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…‘A Man Called Ove’ & lessons in writing and readingMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

Visit to discover Indian blogs