Book Club: Discussing Lean In – Chapters 2 and 3

September 20, 2016

Looking at Chapters Two & Three

We’re just three chapters in and we absolutely love Lean In. We could have easily spent hours and hours chatting through these chapters and relating them to our own experiences. But for now, we’ll have to settle for a putting a few thoughts into this post! So take a look and be sure to tell us what you thought while reading chapters two and three.

Chapter 2: Sit at the Table

Initial Thoughts

Jen Barson: This chapter opens up the idea that women face not only an institutional battle but a battle from within. That being plagued with self-doubt or the impostor syndrome, women tend to hold themselves back more than men. We need to adjust this and get out of our own way – sit at the table and not just observe. It’s something we have control over!

Peter Barrow: The Imposter Theory is not new but this chapter gives it a new twist- that men are better at faking it than women. I don’t think men are better at it- they’ve just had more practice and, frankly, more need to do so!

Kelsey Walker: It’s amazing how you never notice characteristics until they’re pointed out. When reading this chapter I found myself nodding and muttering “yes, exactly- that’s me. I’ve done that.” If I think back to almost any accomplishment, I’ve never taken sole credit – for anything. I usually attribute accomplishments to teamwork, luck, or support from others. We need to step forward, own our successes and as Sheryl said on page 38: “believe in our own abilities.”

Curt Hammond: This chapter was a good reminder of the different approaches women and men take when thinking about and communicating success and failure. I have been amazed at this difference first hand as a father, uncle, coach and employer. Peter’s right when he says that the Imposter Theory applies to everyone-men just may have more experience. For me, it was a good reminder that we all have a role to play in building the leaders around us. And understand that by acknowledging your strengths, I am not taking away from my own.

The Imposter Theory

Key Takeaways

JB: I recognize times in my life where I have not taken my place at the table. No more. I will endeavour to actively participate and point out when I don’t think it’s happening – not just for me, but for any women who may be watching from the sidelines.

PB: On page 32 the comment: “I could feel something deeply and profoundly and be completely wrong” is one that all of us should be prepared to admit; not get locked into our own paradigms and beliefs- keep a wide-open mind.

KW: This chapter was a great reminder that it’s not that women don’t have the knowledge or the skills to become successful (obviously). But that we are our own worst enemy. Instead of staying quiet we need to assert ourselves. And if we don’t have the confidence, then we need to “fake it till we make it” and that is how we’ll find our seat at the table.

CH: Success is a team effort and we need to make sure, regardless of gender, that we create fun, engaging and safe spaces for people to succeed and fail. #FailForward

Chapter 3: Success and Likability

Initial Thoughts

JB: Why do women hold themselves back? Research shows that each level of professional success comes with positive reinforcement for men and although women may be recognized for their achievements, they are not liked personally. Women are supposed to be nice and nurturing, not driven and successful. Yeah. Right. (insert sarcasm font).

PB: This chapter is right on. Women tend to be criticized or labeled when successful, men tend to be liked and admired. Examples are everywhere. I saw a bumper sticker the other day from Trump that showed him and Hillary and the message was “Trump THAT Bitch!”. Have we seen one as derogatory of Trump, with all his failings?


KW: I found the juxtapositioning between chapter two and three almost funny. In Chapter two, women naturally downplay success and defer credit to others. But reading this chapter, you have to wonder if this is one reason why? When women are successful they’re labeled bossy or overbearing. No wonder we’re so quick to downplay our achievements.

CH: I take Kelsey’s point to heart and wonder how much of this can be influenced (fixed?) by corporate culture. I have worked with some large corporations and you can just smell the fear of speaking up and saying the wrong thing as a woman or man. I can’t imagine the additional pressure of being a female leader in some of these situations. While I am not sure they are always intentional, Old Boys Clubs are alive and well in many businesses.

Key Takeaways

JB: We need more women in top jobs so it doesn’t seem like such an exception. As Sandberg says in her book, “If women held 50 percent of the top jobs, it would just not be possible to dislike that many people.”

PB: Sandberg’s note that it seems necessary to be “relentlessly pleasant” brings up Shakespeare’s thought: “A man may smile and smile yet be a villain.”

KW: We need to stop perpetuating these ideas about what it means to be female. I was reminded of this the other day when eating lunch with my 5-year-old niece. She let out a pretty significant burp and, being the kid that she is, thought it was hilarious. I told her not to laugh but to say “excuse me.” Again, being the kid she is, she asked “why?” and just as I was about to answer, I had to bite my tongue and change my response from “because it’s not ladylike,” to more accurately, “because it isn’t polite.” I know the lunchroom is different from the boardroom, but the concept is still the same. We need to stop forcing this idea of “appropriate behaviour” based on gender.

CH: I love this line from the book: “Owning one’s success is key to achieving more success.” I want to see all the leaders we deal with at Pearl Street (staff, clients and suppliers) celebrating their success AND the successes of those around them. The less threatening we can make success (i.e. you have more of it than me) the easier this conversation gets.

So what did you think about chapters two and three? We’d love to see your thoughts and key takeaways in the comments below, and on twitter using the hashtag #PSBookClub. And make sure you check back on Tuesday, October 18th for our discussion on chapters  four and five.

Happy reading!


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