Notes on “Lean In” (Sheryl Sandberg)



  • Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women.
  • Women hold just 22 percent of seats in parliaments globally.
  • A meager twenty-three of the S&P 500 CEOs are women.
  • Women hold about 25 percent of senior executive positions, 19 percent of board seats, and constitute 19 percent of our elected congressional officials.
  • “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

Double Standards:

  • “Women have to prove themselves to a far great extent than men do. A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.”
  • “When a girl tries to lead, she is often labeled bossy. Boys are seldom called bossy because a boy taking the role of boss does not surprise or offend.”
  • “Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.”
  • “When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less. This truth is both shocking and unsurprising: shocking because no one would ever admit to stereotyping on the basis of gender and unsurprising because clearly we do.”
  • “…in meetings, both men and women are more likely ti interrupt a woman and give credit to a man for an idea first proposed by a woman.”
  • “All of us, myself included, are biased, whether we admit it or not.”

Differing Expectations:

  • “We [women] consistently underestimate ourselves. Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their own performance as better than it actually is.”
  • “Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because ‘she worked really hard,’ or ‘got lucky,’ or ‘had help from others.’ Men and women also differ when it comes to explaining failure. When a man fails, he points to factors like ‘didn’t study enough’ or ‘not interested in the subject matter.’ When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.”
  • “Everyone needs to get more comfortable with female leaders–including female leaders themselves.”
  • “An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed the women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements.”

Sharing the Load:

  • “When a couple announces that they are having a baby, everyone says ‘Congratulations!’ to the man and ‘Congratulations! What are you planning on doing about work?’ to the woman. The broadly held assumption is that raising their child is her responsibility.
  • “When a husband and wife are both employed full-time, the mother does 40 percent more child care and about 30 percent more housework than the father. A 2009 survey found that only 9 percent of people in dual-earner marriages said that they shared housework, child care, and breadwinning evenly.”
  • “When mothers care for their children, it’s ‘parenting,’ but when fathers care for their children, the government deems it a ‘child care arrangement.’ I have even heard a few men say that they are heading home to ‘babysit’ for their children.”
  • “No wonder when asked at a conference what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter answered, ‘The laundry.'”
  • “When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, martial conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. When women work outside the home and share bread winning duties, couples are more likely to stay together. In fact, the risk of divorce reduces by about half when a wife earns half the income and a husband does half the housework.”
  • “If more children see fathers at school pickups and mothers who are busy at jobs, both girls and boys will envision more options for themselves. Expectations will not be set by gender but by personal passion, talents, and interests.”

Solid Business Advice (for both genders):

  • “One of the things he [Mark Zuckerberg] told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back. He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.”
  • “Asking for input is not a sign of weakness but often the first step to finding a path forward.”
  • “We all want to be heard, and when we focus on showing others we are listening, we actually become better listeners.”
  • “Instead of putting on some kind of fake ‘all-work persona,’ I think we benefit from expressing our truth, talking about personal situations, and acknowledging that professional decisions are often emotionally driven…true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”
  • “It is our responsibility to draw the line…The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices differently–to set limits and stick to them.”
  • “The right question is not ‘Can I do it all?’ but ‘Can I do what’s most important for me and my family?'”

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”