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Katie Benner

When Leaning In Isn't Enough

Even when women choose not to leave before they leave, sometimes it’s not up to them.
There's more to it.

There's more to it.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty

When Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” was published in 2013, I was a bit perplexed by one of the bigger premises of the book: “Don’t leave before you leave.” Women, she wrote, shouldn’t talk themselves out of opportunities because they’re worried about the impact that having a family could have on their careers. Duh, I thought. That’s like planning for the heart attack you might have in your 50s.

When I moved to California, I was surprised by how many female investors and founders mentioned that “Lean In” allowed for conversations about women at work that the tech industry hadn’t previously been able to have. The book’s other big theme was to couch demands for more pay and better assignments as things that would benefit the whole company. Get what you want, but don’t be too threatening. Sandberg’s book seemed pragmatic and at times retrograde to me, but not revolutionary.