Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Sheryl Sandberg
Knopf, 2013
240 pp., $24.95

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Betty Smartt Carter

Look Before You Lean

Advice for working women.

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Like many Americans, I do feel my heart swell at the picture of free people enjoying as many unfettered choices as possible, without having to answer to majority cultures or oppressive governments or any other tyrannies that crush individual lives. I see the attraction of Sandberg world: a place where the old gender/work divisions are nothing but the lingering scent of fields and woods—part of our agricultural heritage. We can ignore those, right? We can all choose to do what we like no matter who we are and what our parents believed fifty years ago.

Maybe so, but in seeking a wider range of choices in our lives, women and men sometimes forget that the truths we dedicate our lives to matter more than the balance of fairness we achieve in the pursuit of them. "Lean in!" Sheryl Sandberg says. But lean in to what? Into an inbox full of mail? Or ultimately into some technological void where we're all working day and night to create things of little lasting beauty or value—things that may even be harmful to the people we love.

Leaning may be a good thing—unless you're already pulling the wagon toward a cliff.

Betty Smartt Carter writes fiction and teaches Latin in Alabama.

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