Before Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, started to write Lean In, her book-slash-manifesto on women in the workplace, she reread Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Like the homemaker turned activist who helped start a revolution 50 years ago, Sandberg wanted to do far more than sell books.
Sandberg, whose ideas about working women have prompted both enthusiasm and criticism, is attempting nothing less than a Friedan-like feat: a national discussion of a gender-problem-that-has-no-name, this time in the workplace, and a movement to address it.
When her book is published on March 11, accompanied by a carefully orchestrated media campaign, she hopes to create her own version of the consciousness-raising groups of yore: “Lean In Circles,” as she calls them, in which women can share experiences and follow a Sandberg-crafted curriculum for career success. (First assignment: a video on how to command more authority at work by changing how they speak and even sit.)
“I always thought I would run a social movement,” Sandberg said in an interview for Makers, a new documentary on feminist history.
And yet no one knows whether women will show up for Sandberg’s revolution, a top-down affair propelled by a fortune worth hundreds of millions on paper, or whether the social media executive can form a women’s network of her own. Only a single test “Lean In Circle” exists.
With less than three weeks until launch — which will include a spread in Time magazine and splashy events like a book party at Mayor Michael R Bloomberg’s home — organisers cannot say how many more groups may sprout up.
Even her advisers acknowledge the awkwardness of a woman with double Harvard degrees, dual stock riches (from Facebook and Google, where she also worked), a 9,000-square-foot house and a small army of household help urging less fortunate women to look inward and work harder.
Will more earthbound women, struggling with cash flow and child care, embrace the advice of a Silicon Valley executive whose book acknowledgments include thanks to her wealth adviser and Oprah Winfrey?
“I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do