Lean In – By Sheryl Sandberg A Book Discussion Guide(by Erin Albert) 3.15.13This is the list of discussion questions that popped into my head as I read Ms.Sandberg’s new and semi-controversial book, Lean In. This D guide is completelyunauthorized; however, I thought it would be helpful to have a framework by whichwomen can begin discussing the ideas, issues and concerns in this book (I used thefirst, hardcover edition for pagination below).I also threw in some of my own experiences along the way—either in the media, or myown world.The only way we are going to get women at more helms in this world is tocontinue the conversation, and spark some action...and I couldn’t think of a better datethan the Ides of March to throw down some questions. Cheers!Introduction1. Ms. Sandberg references the 2011 McKinsey report on gender – in that men are“promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on pastaccomplishments.” (Page 8) -Why do you think this is? -What can we do to promote more women? Discuss.2. Who are your mentors? Who are your sponsors?3. Who do you mentor? Who do you sponsor?Chapter 11. It appears that Ms. Sandberg’s grandmother was a first generation collegegraduate in her family (although the book does not officially state this to be true.)Do you think first generation college graduates have it harder or easier than thosewith parents or grandparents that went to college?2. Education as Ms. Sandberg notes is about raising your hand and speaking whencalled upon, but the workplace doesn’t value this behavior. How can we change this,inside and outside the classroom?3. On page 17, Ms. Sandberg notes that a kindergarten class had no girls in it thatwanted to be President of the United States. If you saw the movie MissRepresentation, you’d also further note that women who go into politics are askeddifferent questions and treated differently by the media. How can we encouragemore girls and women to be interested in and run for political offices?4. There is a “social penalty” for women who are branded as “very ambitious” asnoted on page 17. How can we equate and value ambition in BOTH genders?
5. Much like Ms. Sandberg, I personally married and divorced young. Honestly,marriage held me back from being the best I could be in terms of my own careerdevelopment. Do successful women who divorce or are not married haveadvantages or disadvantages in the workplace?6. On page 21, there’s the stereotyping of the toy industry by gender. Why has noone thought of a gender-neutral toy store for kids?7. Do you ever feel “forced to choose” between marriage/family and work? Whenand how did the force come to you (as a societal pressure, an internal pressure, orsomething from somewhere else?)8. At the end of Chapter 1, Sandberg discussed her talk at Barnard and was called—“the baddest bitch.” It was a compliment. While the student complimenting hermay have had good intentions, how can we celebrate and appreciate womenwithout calling them a female dog? This is one example of the “mixed messages”that women have in being fierce and bitchy, strong and too strong in society—sohow can we change this?Chapter 21. Sheryl opens the chapter by talking about the women working for Geithner atFacebook sitting in the periphery of the room. Just yesterday, I attended a livesession of the Indiana senate, where I saw old white men in the center of the room,and women around the periphery of the room. At the end, Sandberg discusseswomen not holding their hands up. When and how can we encourage women to sitat the table and keep their hands up (or not put their hands up at all)?2. Sandberg discusses the imposter syndrome/fraud factor when it comes towomen celebrating their accomplishments. How do we get rid of this voice inwomen’s heads?3. On page 32, Sheryl discussed little brother syndrome. Similarly—my brother andI went to the same college, he was a year younger, I saw him crack a book ONCEduring college and graduated with a better GPA than I did. How can we get girls tostop self-doubting themselves both in the classroom and the workroom?Chapter 31. How can we fix the Heidi-Howard problem on pages 39-40?2. Negotiation for women was equated to “cross[ing] a minefield backward in highheels,” according to Sandberg. We as women must 1. First be nice and“appropriately female,” and then 2. Provide a legitimate explanation for negotiation(unlike men). Why must we justify negotiation?
3. Do we really HAVE to choose between being liked and being successful? Which ismore important to you individually?4. Is Mark Z. correct on page 51?Chapter 41. Sheryl opens this chapter by discussing her career plan—in that, there was noplan. Daniel Pink also discussed in several of his books that there is “no plan.” Isthere a plan? Did you have one? Is it turning out as you envisioned it?2. Are careers like a jungle gym, a lattice, or something else? (Personally, I think ofa rose trellis – whereby we all start from the same place, but we all get to differentplaces in the end.)3. The rocket ship discussion—on choosing a position for growth potential is one ofthe pieces of advice that worked for Ms. Sandberg (page 58). Where are you in yourcareer? Your job? Are you still learning, or is it time to find another rocket?4. The 18 month plan: do you have one?5. “Tiara Syndrome” (page 63): ever suffer from this? Discuss.Chapter 51. Apparently, women come flat out and ask Ms. Sandberg for mentoring. While Idon’t think I’ve ever flat out asked any of my mentors to “be my mentor,” how canwe get mentors and sponsors as women without blatantly asking AND with settingexpectations on what we want from mentors/sponsors so it isn’t awkward?(Instead, a Jedi high council or board of mentors?)2. Wow – the data on page 73 is compelling about mentoring – but I’ve never seen aformal mentoring program that shows senior males how to mentor women,honestly. Do these programs actually exist?3. I hate to be crass, but why would the good old boys want women in their clubs,anyway? Probably why question 2 is so rare in the business world.Chapter 61. Business is personal (as seen on page 88), and you really can’t bring part of you towork (page 89). Discuss.That’s all I have! Good luck with the rest of the book – and I hope this was helpful.Sheryl helped me test the waters not once, but twice with this book and her sharedwisdom. I am thankful she dared to write what all of us are thinking.