The recently published best seller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, has sparked lively exchanges online, in personal conversations, and on college campuses. Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, argues that in many cases professional women hold themselves back in their careers by failing to “lean in” to opportunities, and that they hold back because of concerns about how professional positions might affect future life choices.
As women who study leadership and gender in higher education, we were interested in what insights Sandberg’s book would bring to issues on campus. We found that many of the findings in the book resonated with what we knew about women in academe from our own research and other studies, that many midcareer women opt to forgo promotion and leadership positions in anticipation of messy politics, sexist cultures, or irreconcilable challenges between work life and family life. The result is that women get stuck in midlevel positions, and fewer women than men occupy the corner offices on campuses. Is this because academic women don’t lean in? <Read more.>