It’s been a year since Sheryl Sandberg came out with Lean In, her bestselling manifesto for working women. Since then, over 1.75 million copies have been sold; the book’s out in 28 languages, and will be in eight more by the end of 2014 [a deal was just made for a Kurdish edition].
And Sandberg’s professed goal of seeing 1,000 Lean In “circles” — small support groups — formed within a year has been exceeded, actually 16 times over. The Lean In foundation says more than 16,000 have formed, in 72 countries. As she often does on her travels, Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, met with one such group in China. “That was an emotional experience,” she said. “I told them this was my dream.”
There are also 310 Lean In circles on college campuses, where, Sandberg says, she’s found that graduating students are craving more age-specific content than the book provided. And so, Lean In: For Graduates, out on Tuesday, includes the original text enhanced with new chapters, many containing concrete advice for graduates. For example: How to craft a resume (and get rid of those typos!). How to handle a first interview. And how to negotiate a first salary.
Sandberg, in an interview about her new book, also addressed those persistent rumours that she may be interested in a future in politics, and
the continued debate over the word “bossy”.
The original book resonated so strongly. Why the need for a new edition?
The most common question I get is, “I really want to ‘lean in’, but HOW?” Especially from younger people. So this is an attempt to answer some of those questions. Also, since Lean In was published, so many people wrote us these amazing stories that I just wanted a chance to share. The broadening perspective is really good. This gives us a chance to address explicitly women of colour. And men “leaning in”. For one woman, her “lean in” moment was testifying against her rapist. It was hard to choose only 12 stories.
You know, if we get to equality, it’s going to be this generation that does it. And they’re going to have to start from the beginning of their careers.
Three years ago, you gave a graduation speech at Barnard, which got everything started. Is there anything different you’d say in that speech today? [Note: Sandberg will give another commencement speech next month — at City Colleges of Chicago, a large community college system].
Yes, I’m learning a lot from this process. What I would add now is the importance of supporting each other as we “lean in”. I think what all these Lean In circles speak to, and what we suspected but didn’t know, is how important it is to surround yourself with peers and make an explicit commitment to figuring out what your goals are, and going for it. So I would probably have added: “And don’t do this alone!”
How receptive has this new generation been to your message?
I’d say I’ve found this generation very receptive, and really hungry for specifics. Which is why we got these chapters written. About the smallest things, such as don’t make typos on your resume! It’s a shocking thing how many great graduates from great schools make mistakes. And do basic research. This is not your father’s job search.
What about male graduates? Are they thinking about supporting women?
What’s clear is that we won’t get to equality by just women working on it alone. We only get to equality if men and women work on it. And it has to be men doing it not just as a favour to women in their lives, but because it’s good for them. And we can’t wait until men are senior. It has to be the millennial men coming into the work force.
A bunch of the surveys show that millennial men are much more interested in work-life balance, much more interested in having lives that are meaningful. The real question is, is that going to translate into doing more diapers, doing the laundry? Because that’s what this takes.
We have to ask: There have been rumours about your interest in political office in California. Where do you stand?
I’m not running for office. Listen, I love Facebook. I really do. I love tech. I love how we connect people. And I love Lean In! I’ve met with circles all over the world. I have no plans to give this up.
Let’s talk about the word “bossy”. You’ve launched a campaign to ban the word, when talking about girls. Some people have raised objections, saying that “bossy” isn’t necessarily a damaging word, or on the other hand that “bossy” behaviour is not necessarily to be encouraged.
The goal of Ban Bossy is to make people aware of how deeply entrenched our stereotypes are about women in leadership. It’s a programme with the Girl Scouts, designed to address a problem, which is that by middle school, more boys than girls want to lead, and that continues into adulthood.
My daughter has been called bossy. Lots of little girls are. My son has never been called bossy. And those patterns continue.
Listen, I always say: Next time you’re about to call a little girl bossy, say instead that that she has executive leadership skills. Everyone laughs. But then I say, think about saying that a boy has executive leadership skills. Nobody laughs. It’s not funny! What that points out is how different our expectations are about boys and girls.
So the debate about “bossy” is fantastic, because every single person who talks about it starts out by acknowledging that we have different expectations for leadership in girls and boys — which is exactly what the point was.