Monday, March 17, 2014

Revisiting the Dearth of Women Leaders: A Book Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an important book. It's a good springboard for discussion. I'm sure many people also disagree with Sandberg, but at least she brings it up bravely. She didn't have to. But I'm glad she did. In my own naivete, I also thought in my youth that I would have an ideal marriage and career. That everything would be split down the middle. But that is certainly not so in reality. A working mother is disadvantaged in many aspects (going on maternity leave, for one, and being the "more primary" caregiver between both parents). There is not a day that I also don't second guess my own choice to be the breadwinner and a working mother. It was my own mother-in-law who taught me about being a working mother: "It may not be ideal, but we do what we need to for our families. Go with what works, not what society dictates." This isn't a direct quote but it sounded that way to me. Go with what works. And for us, this is what works: that both of us are full-time corporate employees. We would love to be business owners but, alas, we haven't found the right business. On top of all of that, we also homeschool. No, we don't try to have it all. But we made some choices and we're sticking by them. I'm really glad to have a partner who is a an equal partner. And I have my father-in-law to thank for the example he set for his son.

What I realized from this book was: I owe it to my daughter to let her see the choices she has. She ought to know that if she wanted to be a leader, she could. Her gender should never be in the way of that. If that makes me a feminist then go ahead and call me one.

Sandberg doesn't just tell her story. She relates her story to the numbers. Despite the progress in women's equality, there are still less women leaders than one would have hoped to see in this decade. In the Philippines, I am a beneficiary of those rights that were conferred on women. And we do not lack in women leaders (though they have cropped up only in the last thirty years): we have had the beloved Corazon Aquino as our first woman president, followed by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose administration was hounded not by her gender but by allegations of corruption. In the Philippines, there have been some indications of equal opportunity... not just in leadership but also in corruption (Imelda Marcos, and now, the famed Pork Barrel queen, Janet Lim Napoles). I count myself lucky that I belong to a society that promotes the development and empowerment of women. There are still indications of a culture of machismo and double standards. But at least, women still feel safe on our streets. This cannot be said of some other countries. But is it enough? Our bill for reproductive health is still languishing in the Supreme Court. There is still a long way to go and a lot of room for improvement.

I personally believe that if we had more women leaders, globally...we would have less wars and more prosperity for everyone (and not just a small percentage of the population). If women think communally...that is a true advantage for all and not just for women.

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