The GigaOM Lean In discussion: Sheryl Sandberg and women at work

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook

We get a lot of unsolicited business and technology books at GigaOM: our editorial group table in San Francisco is littered with inspirational tomes, visionary essays, and other tips for people who hope to become highly effective. Most of these books gather dust or serve as makeshift monitor stands. But along with a lot of folks, we’ve been looking forward to the release of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.

lean-in_custom-575cb1cc7e2e0e704abfffbc2a0ce498dafad0f8-s6-c10The book — which goes on sale today — has already been subject to an amazing amount of discussion, a fair portion of which clearly took place before people had read the book. We decided to try something novel and actually read the book before commenting on it or the important discussion it has provoked about women, men, Corporate America, technology, and leadership. After our paidContent book expert Laura Owen obtained advance copies of the book from its publisher, Random House’s Knopf, we distributed them to our female editorial staffers (and one earnest-yet-intimidated male staffer) and organized a virtual book club discussion on Socialcast, our internal collaboration site. We present that discussion in the same fashion as our debate about Twitter anonymity and web vigilantes last year.

Here’s what the GigaLadies had to say about Sandberg’s book.

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One of the things we had wondered about was whether Sandberg’s book was just another portrait of insular Silicon Valley culture — interesting and noteworthy but not necessarily applicable to those outside the industry.

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Stacey Higginbotham wondered if Sandberg’s book actually encouraged the wrong kind of stereotypes about women in the workplace.

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Barb Darrow thought she perhaps could have chosen a better role model.

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Eliza Kern, the youngest member of the GigaLadies, found the book interesting and useful but also a little weird.

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Clearly, Sandberg raised a lot of good questions about the current state of gender relations in the workplace. How can we address those questions?

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At least one guy was glad to see a nuanced but important discussion.

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Any good book club discussion involves stories or situations from real life and how they relate to the topic of the book.

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The anecdotes continued.

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Ki Mae Heussner wondered if the GigaLadies saw themselves as competing against other women, rather than competing against people in general, as the book noted has been the case in the past. Speaking of competition, Sandberg’s book has been linked with an essay by Anne-Marie Slaughter called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and Slaughter reviewed Sandberg’s book for The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review section.

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Finally, I attempted to figure out how best to change the situation so that books like this don’t have to be written.

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