Over the past few weeks I’ve really enjoyed the increased conversation about women in the work place sparked by the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In. The conversation was enhanced by Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban working from home at Yahoo. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve been following all things Sheryl Sandberg for a while and I have heard the book taps into a lot of the themes of her popular TED talk, so I’m familiar with her points of view.

The Launch

From a marketing standpoint, I’ve really admired the way Sheryl sparked a conversation. Pre and post launch, she earned content by getting people to react to the topic of her book. I am not sure if the marketing folks behind Lean In seeded content by inviting people to contribute to the conversation or if it happened organically. It was probably a combination of both.  Some aspects of the launch that I think worked particularly are:

  1. Strong points of view stir up a little controversy. Not everyone likes what Sandberg has to say about women being responsible for their success. While that message is supposed to be empowering, some people take it as condemning. When people strongly agree or disagree with you, they are willing to talk.
  2. It’s not about the product. There are some products people feel really strongly about and would talk about on their own, but usually it’s the activity, lifestyle, symbol or a trend around a product that gets people to talk.
  3. The topic is something people already care about. I once heard someone say that the tough thing about innovation is that “solving a problem that people don’t know they have” and “creating something no one wants” can look exactly the same for new products. The same thing goes for starting new conversations. Trying to drum up enthusiasm around a subject no one is talking about yet and something that no one actually cares about can look the same. That’s why it’s important to know your customers and know what they want to talk about. There’s an art to sparking a conversation that somewhat already exists. In the case of Lean In, it’s about re-igniting a conversation for the most part by framing it with a fresh point of view. Lean In isn’t a conversation that comes out of nowhere.

To change gears away from the product launch success story, the subject matter of the Lean In conversation sparked happens to be of particular interest to me as well. So I wanted to share a few of my favorite pieces I’ve read. Let me know what you think of the conversation, the backlash, and of course the product launch in the comments!

Background

Sheryl Sandberg’s Barnard College commencement speech

Sheryl Sandbergy’s TED talk: “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders”

Why Women Can’t Have it All
The Atlantic

By: Ann Marie Slaughter

This article has been referenced in many conversations around Lean In. A lot of people say that she has a very different point of view than Sandberg’s, but I think they both want and believe essentially the same thing:  More women in power will improve opportunities for women overall.

Content that interested me: 

Raising Your Girl Like a Boy 

Huffington Post

By: Julie Zhuo, Director of Product Design, Facebook

“My parents would look at each other, flash a knowing smile, and declare “oh, we raised Julie like a boy” the way they might declare that they recycled, or drove a hybrid car, or volunteered at the local shelter…More irritating was the fact that if my parents were so proud of the fact that they raised me like a boy, didn’t it insinuate somehow that boys were better, or at least the boy-way of doing things was better? I got Legos instead of Barbies for Christmas. Video games were encouraged but dress-up was frowned upon. I begged for ballet lessons at the age of seven, to which my parents eventually acquiesced, but only under the condition that I also take swimming classes.”

Bad at the Habit Zone

Podcast starring Gina Trapani and Kevin Purdy.

Pretty funny and interesting. Key quotes:

“It appears that Sheryl is trying to kickstart the 3rd wave of feminism.” – Gina

“No, that’d be the 4th wave. Jezebel is the 3rd wave.” – Kevin

“Leaning in doesn’t mean having no realistic understanding of what your limitations are.” – Kevin

Gina Biachi on Leaning In So Hard You Fall Flat On Your Face

TechCrunch

By: Alexia Tsostis

More information on the future of the LeanIn.org community and direction of the conversation beyond the book. 

Lean In, Trickle Down: The False Promise of Sheryl Sandberg’s Theory of Change

Forbes

By: Bryce Covert

“It’s also hard to see how any of this helps the huge numbers of women working low-paid jobs. They’re the majority of workers in service sector jobs like retail and food service that offer paltry wages and few, if any, benefits like paid time off or even stable schedules to help arrange childcare. They dominate growing jobs like home health aides and domestic workers who don’t even enjoy all the labor protections afforded other workers and are often subject to abuse. These problems will likely remain untouched even if women like Sandberg and Mayer transform Google and Yahoo!.”

Is there Life After Work?

NY Times

By: Erin Callan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers

“I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony.”

Advice from a Male CEO: “I think we all need to Lean In.”

CNN

By: Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg

“When my company surveyed recent male and female graduates across all majors at two-year, four-year public and private and for-profit universities about their self-reported salaries, the results were not good: Men earn, on average, 29% more than women.”

 Sheryl Sandberg Pushes Women to “Lean In”

60 Minutes

Interviewer: “And what about people who look at you and say ‘it’s easy for you to say this.'”

Sheryl: “It is easier for me to say this. That’s why I’m saying it.”

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