My A-Ha Moment Thanks To Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012

Sheryl Sandberg is a force to be reckoned with. There is no doubt about it. She’s a take-charge woman who is inspiring legions of corporate women to take what is rightfully theirs.

As a young woman, I would have been a flag-waving, card-carrying fan of Ms. Sandberg’s. She may talk about  women who don’t sit at the center table in meetings, but dammit I was sitting front and center at executive meetings. I never made excuses for my age, gender or for looking ridiculously young on top of it all. I took what I thought was rightfully mine, and I did it well with no apologies. I was the poster child for women who were “leaning in.”

And then I leaned out.

I pushed my chair away from the table. I handed in my corporate cards and stuffy suits. I gave away my 2-inch business heels that had walked the hallways with confidence. I was done.

Even though I excelled at my job and was on my way to taking over the public relations world, it wasn’t what I wanted out of life. In fact, because I spent so much time dedicated to my job I didn’t have a life. I also realized although I was really good at my job didn’t mean that was who I ultimately wanted to be.

While I applaud Ms. Sandberg’s dedication to inspiring the corporate female into taking the office by storm, where does it leave we women who opt not to live that life? Leaning in shouldn’t be just about being a corporate success but rather successful at whatever you choose.

Leaning in should be about leaning in towards one’s family if you prefer. It should be about leaning in toward your community. Or leaning in toward your blog, your personal business, your travel wishes. Leaning in should be about taking the bull by the horns in whatever you wish to accomplish. The world has too much variety in life to say only by leaning in at the corporate table can a women truly be a success.

Ms. Sandberg, it is time for you to take a step back from the corporate table and recognize there are many ways to define oneself as a woman and a success. By excluding the vast majority of your female community, you are alienating those who would benefit from understanding that being female doesn’t preclude us from doing what we want and going after it.


  1. I joined the BlogHer network in June and have seen a number of postings from BlogHer ’13. It was interesting to see yours, and actually you echo my sentiments about this issue. I just read an article written by a SAHM saying she wished she “kept her foot in the door” at work, and expounded about how women re-enter the workforce at lower salaries. I’m tired of reading that we should want to be back at work. I worked in Corporate America with a number of men. I was very self-conscious about being a young woman in that environment. My career did not grow as my male counterparts did, but that was for no lack of me “leaning in” and giving my all. It was that giving my all that lead me to be a SAHM. Darn it! I was tired of pushing and shoving my way to the middle.

    We do need women to fight for us while we are still in the boardroom – without it we’ll have no choices and we’ll keep pushing and shoving with nothing to show for our efforts. BUT we also need women to celebrate us ladies, who have had careers and decide to stay home and pursue our families and our businesses. I don’t want to feel ashamed that I chose to stay home, because I’m not ashamed. I couldn’t imagine missing my baby’s first year milestones, but I also do not want to be penalized for being a SAHM if I choose to reenter the workforce.

    1. Wow. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

      I really don’t like how we’re all supposed to want to be corporate tycoons. It’s just not for everyone; but that doesn’t make me less of a feminist, woman or take-no-prisoners female.

      1. Thanks! Sorry for the vehemence of my response – this just really struck a chord. I wrote up a post about this issue for my blog, but decided not to post it, since it didn’t really fit in with a food blog. 🙂

  2. I’m an entrepreneur because I have no desire to be in the corporate world. I think we can still lean in without being at the head of the executive table. I hope more people will embrace the concept for themselves and not take what Sheryl is saying word for word. What a great discussion we had post-keynote. That’s how bloggers lean in! 🙂

  3. What a wonderful point you make — it really should be about what all women are choosing to do. We are not defined by one characteristic, nor do we all have the same goals in life.

    1. Thanks, Ashley. I just wish Sheryl Sandberg would expand who were audience is. She thinks she’s talking to all women but she’s being exclusionary on some points.

  4. Clapping. Seriously.

    This is exactly what I have been thinking as the Lean In message has been broadcast for the last few months. Only you put it into much better words.

    1. I appreciate the feedback, Tracie. It’s been tough to feel like she’s talking to these elite group when it should be about all women leaning in into their lives.

  5. Here, here! Great post! I quit a corporate position in PR to get my master’s and teach, a job I loved and leaned fully into until I left to lean into staying at home. I have actually felt more successful in my latter two careers than I ever did in the first. I also believe that I have had more of direct positive impact on the lives of others in the latter two…something by which I measure success.

    1. I love that you felt more successful in your two most recent careers. I think it just goes to show that you can be more successful when you lean in to the things you are passionate about and love.

  6. You are so right. I for one hated being in the corporate world. I absolutely love being home with my kids. Now, that my youngest is going in to second grade, I dread every having to go back to work in an office.

  7. Maybe that should be a follow up book – Leaning in to What You Love? I walked away from Lean In with the urge to speak up more & not let my gender silence me (which I have done in the past). Guess I’m always inclined to take away what I need from something & discard the rest, as I too do not feel called to the corporate world (at all).
    I loved how thought-provoking this was! It’s important to have these dialogues.

    1. I like that idea. We should pen it, Natalie! I’m glad you got something out of Lean In. I’m not saying there’s not a lot of great takeaways from the book. But I do know many women feel alienated from what she is saying as she pushed the whole corporate view point.

  8. I was a late bloomer. I stayed close to my children when they were little working, but nothing that involved as corporate (I didn’t have the education either). When my last child was about 11 & the other youngest was 12 I went back to school, and became a legal assistant/paralegal. The world of law is a different realm, but I’m glad I’m retired now and living on earth again. 😉

  9. This is a really thoughtful piece and something that resonates with me – I threw out my business heels at the top of my game as well – to focus on other aspects of my life. My kids, and developing my blog, and my freelance work alongside it. I consider myself to be doing fine now, so corporate success isn’t a measure of my success either. Happiness and flexibility in my work are. Thanks so much for linking up to the Parenting Pinterest Party too.

    1. I think our story is so much more common than we think. I think her non-profit, Lean In, is trying to reach out to a broader audience. But Ms. Sandberg just can’t seem to expand her view past her own corporate experience. Too bad.

  10. I totally agree. Her whole point is to not limit women…so whyyyy focus so much on leaning in in a corporate environment. Great blog!

    xoxo Lauren

    1. I agree! It always drives me crazy when moms say they don’t work. I’m working until the moment my kids go to sleep. And even then it doesn’t end.

    1. I think leaning in to our lives is so much better than going after something we’re not dedicated to. It’s great Ms. Sandberg wants women to success in the corporate world, but I think she’s living on the assumption that that’s what we all want.

  11. This is exactly why I’ve never read her book. I just never felt it would apply to me, because I’m “leaning out” too, at least, I’m leaning out of the corporate world.

  12. Great point – Lean in to whatever you want to, just lean in…Doesn’t have to be the same thing as for this individual.

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