Note: I wrote this in early August
The woman at the registration table thinks I’m going to kidnap someone else’s child. If she knew how hard it is for me to get my own kids to follow me, she wouldn’t be suspicious. However, her job isn’t to read my mind. It’s to protect the kids at summer camp from people doing strange things or, as in my case, asking unusual questions.
Curiosity can get you into trouble.
It all started two days ago. After finishing my work day, I drove to camp to pick up my older son. The man at the registration table looked down at a sheet of paper and said, “Sorry, you’re not on the approved list.” Many parents would get frustrated or angry to hear such news. I was excited. It meant that this camp was strict about the security rules—my kind of camp.
Fifteen months ago, Sheryl Sandberg‘s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead came out and took the country by storm. Grounded in research and filled with personal anecdotes, the book sparked a national conversation about power, privilege, and the distribution of responsibilities between women and men in the workplace and at home. I’ve spoken with many people (mostly women but also a few men) who were inspired by the book and just as many who felt it contained useful insights but fell short in important ways. In this post, I’d like to share the very first reaction I had to the book and why I think it’s relevant to all of us.
My reaction to the book began with the title. What does it mean to “lean in?” Sandberg recommends this to women as an alternative to leaning back—in the Board room and around conference tables where important decisions are made. Leaning in means speaking up, stepping forward, and being willing to take on jobs with loftier titles and bigger responsibilities. To me, this is valuable advice to women who aim for larger impact and recognition. It’s also useful for the smaller but still significant percentage of men who hold back and remain quiet when the stakes are high.