I was horrified to hear that one of my book clubs had chosen to read Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, currently the chief operating officer of Facebook. I assumed that it would be a book telling women how to make it in the corporate world—and since that world is not one that attracts me at all, I didn’t think I would get anything out of reading a how-to manual.
Fortunately, the book offers more than that. It does give women readers tips for making it in the corporate world but it places this in a larger context, demonstrating that there are still systemic obstacles in the way of ambitious women—and it comes up with practical suggestions for change.
Sandberg is, refreshingly, willing to describe herself as a feminist (I get tired of people who believe that feminism is all about hating men or demanding more than half the pie—there are many varieties and degrees of feminism but the value embraced by most is equality of opportunity), though initially she thought, like many people, that feminism was no longer relevant to her:
I headed into college believing that the feminists of the sixties and seventies had done all the hard work of achieving equality for my generation. And yet, if anyone had called me a feminist, I would have quickly corrected that notion. This reaction is prevalent even today, according to sociologist Marianne Cooper … In her 2011 article, “The New F-Word,” Marianne wrote about college English professor Michele Elam, who observed something strange in her Introduction to Feminist Studies course. Even though her students were interested enough in gender equality to take an entire class on the subject, “very few felt comfortable using the word ‘feminism.'”
Sandberg believes that women need to take leadership roles in all walks of life before we can have a fairer world. “Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world … Of 190 heads of state, nine are women.” To create a world where women who want to do so can make it to the top, she recommends three ways to move forward: sit at the table; make your partner a real partner; and don’t leave before you leave. To hear the thinking behind these pieces of advice, listen to her TED talk.
Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long performing at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver. Shane Koyczan is a slam poet. You may well have heard his definition of what it means to be Canadian at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games (“We Are More”). Or you might have heard or seen his “To This Day” anti-bullying video.
Koyczan’s band, Short Story Long, is stellar. I particularly loved the harmonies singer and pianist Olivia Mennell provided behind many of the poems. Maiya Robbie, Jordie Robinson, and Jesse Lee round out an accomplished quartet.
Here is the To This Day video: