Lean In by Sheryl SandbergI had another post planned for today, but I just had to talk about Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook) after listening to the book on Audible today. It has been such a great read listen for me.

Today was my first day calling on accounts at my new job, so I had plenty of driving time to listen, and I kept pausing to call Dan and discuss what Sheryl was saying. Needless to say, Dan is now listening to it too. 

While I would love to recount every single word of the book to you, I’ll just give you some bullet points that really impacted me. 

1. How are Women Viewed in the Workplace?

Are we really treated differently in the workplace then men? I know I feel the discrepancy when I’m out there. I feel that I’m dumb until proven intelligent, and even then, am only expected to be book smart, but not a strategic thinker… again, until I prove otherwise. I hate this invisible ceiling and feel hurt by it, upset that I am seen as so much less than I am right off the bat.

But is it all in my head? 

Well studies show, that men are promoted based on their potential, while women are promoted based on their past accomplishments, because women have to prove their worth.

So what I’m feeling is not in my head, but true. And honestly, I find that I carry this standard around as well. I’m sorry to say, I’ve been programmed to feel the same way about women, even though I’ve encountered as many (if not more) intelligent women as men. 

2. Does Society Shape Our Thinking?

Because I’ve experienced this firsthand, I would say absolutely. Society creates an image of what a woman is and what a man is, from the time we are born. 

When a man is driven, he is rewarded for his work ethic and prowess. When a woman is driven, she is called bossy and cold. (Think Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal”)

This is a big one for me. One of my largest personality traits is a serious and driven persona, but I am constantly “softening” this side of me, as I don’t want to upset the balance around me. I’ll even make my voice a few octaves higher when I speak to sound more feminine and carefree. I don’t want to run people over and seem like a cold hearted bitch, or have them thinking that I’m angry. I am actually terrified of this trait in me, which suggests I feel that to manifest this trait, I would lose the love and adoration of those around me.  

When a woman is a working mother, she is cautioned to find a work/life balance, which suggests they are two opposite concepts. And when told to prioritize either work or life, many women wisely choose life. When a man works and is a dad, it is assumed that he can have a successful career and a happy home life. Working moms are often portrayed as frazzled or a complete wreck, because they’re trying to “do it all”.

Again, this hits home for me. Because of this thinking, I struggled for years with depression. When I had kids, I put away any career ideas because I loved them with all my heart, because my idea of a career woman wasn’t one that included being nurturing as well. But as time went on, I began to resent them because I had to give up my own dreams in order to love them. Then, I tried to chase my own dreams, dragging them behind me (because I didn’t believe it was right to leave them). This concept blew up in my face BIG TIME, and I resented them even more. But then it occurred to me that I could take care of their needs in an amazing way AND follow my own dreams. Their life didn’t have to equal my life, and that was okay, because there are absolutely ways to “do it all” if you’re willing to redefine the traditional thinking about life. And now, I don’t resent them, and I can be both serious and powerful woman, and nurturing and loving mother. I’ve finally found the “balance” that we’re all really happy with. 

3. Are We Getting in Our Own Way?

Yes. Did you know that while men are thinking about having it all, women are worrying about losing it all. What if they lose their job? What if their kid gets sick? What if they get pregnant and take time off? 

This is probably perpetuated by the fact that we have to prove ourselves so much more than men. So if we take time off, we seem weak. I intentionally don’t mention that I have four children in interviews or initial meetings with clients, so that they won’t view me as less intelligent, or worry about me taking too much time off. 

Studies also show that women feel it’s wrong to be more powerful than men.

I struggle with this. I feel guilty about it somehow. Like I will shame a man if I am more powerful than him. Even if I’ve earned it. This doesn’t mean I won’t take the more powerful position, but this psychology exists in me, so I’m not as bold about reaching out and grabbing it.  

When men fail at something, they are more likely to blame external causes like a faulty test or they think things like, “I just wasn’t interested, or I’d have done better.” Whereas when women fail, they will think it’s an internal flaw. 

This reminds me of when Dan and I used to play Scrabble, and if he won it was because he was better than me. If he lost, it was because he was off his game. Talk about man logic. Whereas when I lost I felt like Dan was smarter than me, and if I won I felt guilty for making him feel less than me. 

Women consistently undervalue their performances, while men overvalue their performances. 

I agree with this, and want to add that because men are confident in their performance, even if a woman sees that hers is better, she will be apt to value his and doubt hers more because of this perception.

And women suffer more from feeling like a fake (regardless of their successful history) than men, although both sexes are afflicted with this.

The great thing is, although these ideas about ourselves are due to what society and culture have defined in us, they are the things we have control over right this minute. So while we continue to fight for the collective thinking to change, we can at least change our own thinking right now. Just like I was saying when I wrote, How I Got a Job Like a Man, recognizing the way we think and overcoming it, can help us to make change in our own circumstances. 

Right now, listening to this book is bringing to my attention the limits I’ve put on myself. I hate that I’ve done it, but my hope is that the more I think about it, and the more I discuss it, the more the story I’ve been told will dissipate from my subconscious. And if that happens, maybe I’ll be able to manifest more of those powerful traits I know are in me. Because the quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,” is absolutely true. 

I’ll keep filling you guys in as I read more. I’m sure it will only get better. And if you can’t wait, you can buy the book yourself or borrow it from the library. My library had it in book format but not audio, so I went to Audible for it, but it’s a best seller, so it should be available in most places.

Do you have any thoughts on this?

-Tara

6 thoughts on “3 Things Keeping You From Being a Powerful Woman”

  1. Reading your reply to Becca, Lean In for Graduates sounds like a fantastic graduation gift for some. Thanks for your inspiration, Tara.

    1. I would even get the regular one for a graduate. I would be happy for my 15 year old daughter to read it.

  2. Such a great review. I haven’t read the book yet but you have convinced me to check it out. I am just starting out on my career path so I don’t have as many workplace experiences to compare her messages to but it is definitely something to be conscious of moving forward.

    1. Actually, reading this right now is probably better, so you can avoid the pitfalls up front. She also had a book, Lean In for Graduates, that you might like as well.

  3. Such a great post and I know what you mean about feeling inadequate in the work place. I work in finance and it is just so male dominated that its hard not to feel intimidated!

    I’ve recently relaunched my website CH1K.com and would love if you could stop by and check it out! Let me know what you think xx

    Helen xx
    http://CH1K.com

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