What “Lean In” Means for Millennials

I originally thought “Lean In” was a book for feminists, working moms and female executives — in other words, not for me. I have never felt judged in the workplace by my gender, and I’ve never been held back just because I’m a woman (at least not to my knowledge).

And perhaps this is naivety or a sign of my lack of experience in the workforce. But I was always told growing up that I could do anything, and I’ve always believed that.

So, I really didn’t think I needed this book…

lean in

But, when my boss’s boss’s boss (yes, It is possible to be that low on the totem pole) said the book “changed her life” — I knew it was something I couldn’t ignore.

For the disbelievers out there, I recommend downloading the free sample from Kindle. Sheryl Sandberg dispels most of your doubts in the very first chapter and the next thing you know you’re forking over $12.99 to finish the book.

I am begging you. Add this to your summer reading list. You’ll thank me later.

“Lean In” opened my eyes to all of the sexism that goes on behind closed doors and the discrimination that isn’t always intended, but certainly exists.

Sexism isn’t always as simple as “You’re a girl, you can’t play” and “Lean In” isn’t about blaming men for all of women’s shortcomings. One of Sandberg’s key takeaways is that women also hold themselves and each other back from success.

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter. 

We’re afraid — and that’s only half the battle. If a women is able to conquer fear and move up in her career, she is typically disliked by the majority of her female peers.

This has to stop.

As females we have to band together and support each other rather than fighting each other to the top. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

This idea in particular is why I think this book is so important for my generation to take in. As millennials enter the workforce and are beginning our careers, being aware of these discrepancies is the first step to fighting back.

I am very aware of the fear that holds me back each and every day.  As someone just starting her career, there is A LOT to be afraid of. But the one fear that I battle most often is the fear of being judged or not liked by my peers and my superiors.

Sandberg, too, has struggled with this, until she received an excellent piece of advice from Arianna Huffington. She said, it isn’t realistic to tell women not to care what others think or say about us — we just can’t let it consume us.

Her advice is that we should let ourselves react emotionally and feel whatever anger or sadness being criticized evokes for us. And then we should quickly move on. 

I like this tactic much better than “In one ear and out the other.”

I can’t ignore what others think about me, but I can learn to let it go. And other women starting their careers should learn to do the same.

If you want to change things you can’t please everyone. And if you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

It is common knowledge that women make less money than men. In 2010, women made 77 cents for every dollar made by a man.

But in addition to the fear that holds women back, a lack of confidence can also be a major factor. Sandberg’s research shows that women, even experts in their field, do not feel confident in their abilities.

Women don’t give themselves the credit they deserve in the workplace and are less likely to take credit for a success than a male counterpart. Females typically attribute their success to luck, the help of others and hard work — while males cite innate qualities and skills for their achievements.

Do you know a girl who always seems to have it all — the guy? the job? perfect hair?

Her secret is simple…

Confidence.

Confidence breeds success and it helps us get what we want. Even in the dating scene an average-looking girl with the confidence of a 10 gets hit on more than a 10, who feels like a 5.

The way you carry yourself is important.

Sandberg says, when you don’t feel confident, fake it. We’ve all heard the saying “fake it til you make it” — but research actually backs it up. By acting like you have it all together, you will actually become more efficient.

“Lean In” is a call to action — and Millenials are a very important part of the change that needs to happen for women in the workplace.

We must begin our careers without fear, exude confidence in everything we do and take the credit we deserve.

But most of all, we have to come together as women. We have to hold the ladder for other women on their way to the top, in the hopes that someone will be there to hold it for us in the future.

I hope that you  — yes, you — have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.

So ask yourself what would I do if I weren’t afraid?

And then go do it.

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