It’s been four years since Sheryl Sandberg wrote the divisive tome on women in the workplace and homeplace, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. She’s had some time to reflect on her words then and how they relate to the world now.
In an interview with USA Today, Sandberg admits that we all need to lean quite a bit further:
Q: It has been four years since the publication of Lean In. Are we better off or worse off four years later?
A: In terms of women in leadership roles, we are not better off. We are stuck at less than 6% of the Fortune 500 CEO jobs and their equivalent in almost every country in the world. There were 19 countries run by women when Lean In was published. Today there are 11. Congressional numbers have inched up a tiny bit. And so, overall, we are not seeing a major increase in female leadership in any industry or in any government in the world, and I think that’s a shame.
Sandberg does have hope for the “Lean In Community,” which continues to grow, even if it’s not making strides.
“We have 1.5 million members of our community, 33,000 circles in 150 countries, and we’re growing by almost 100 a week,” says Sandberg, “And we know that when people join circles, the great majority of them will do something that is much more ambitious for themselves.”
She adds, “The fact that there is so much energy around equality around the world and the fact that so many women are in circles gives me hope that this will change in the future.”
After being asked about some of the criticism surrounding her book, specifically Sandberg’s own privilege as a wealthy, white woman in tech, she says her perspective on certain issues changed after the unexpected death of her husband, leaving her a single mom. Sandberg agrees that she didn’t realize how difficult that was at the time she wrote Lean In, and mentions how much more difficult it likely is for someone without her resources:
I certainly wrote about it in Lean In but I also wrote a whole chapter called “Make Your Partner a Real Partner,” which for people who didn’t have one must have been very hard to read.
I have thought a lot about what it is to be a single mother because now I am one. And financially, I don’t face the struggles that so many do. Thirty-seven percent of single mothers are living in poverty, 40% if you are black or Latina. That’s unacceptable.
Have you been leaning in for the last four years? Could you lean in harder? Farther? Faster? Did it work?