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Clara Shih: How Sheryl ‘Leans In’ for All of Us

I was surprised to read the initial set of critical reviews (although am glad now to see a wave of support and gratitude) for Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In. Some commentators suggest that surely she has ulterior motives or is somehow looking down on those of us who haven’t succeeded as emphatically as she has.

Having known Sheryl for years, I think it’s important to view her book in context. For years — certainly long before Facebook and her now global fame — Sheryl Sandberg has been pushing women like me to pursue our dreams and ambitions, to set aside our self-doubt and to believe in ourselves with one phone call, one meeting and one word of encouragement at a time. The Lean In book and Lean In community are logical extensions of her life’s dedication to helping women. For this, she should be commended and supported, not chastised.

Her book and community arrive at a time when many women and men are wondering how to strike the right work-life balance, and I know from personal experience both how powerful Sheryl’s message can be and how silly it is to suggest she’s elitist. If she were elitist, she certainly would have never taken an interest in me five years ago when we met.

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