Broad of the Week: Sheryl Sandberg & Her Controversy

Sheryl_SandbergSheryl Sandberg’s just-released book, “Lean In,” has caused more than its share of controversy.

Even though Sandberg newly defines herself as a feminist and believes that the principles in her book uphold feminists beliefs, not all feminists agree with her, not by a long shot.

That is because “feminism” is a broad umbrella of values. It is a movement that aims to empower women. But think about how many different women there are! Women are half the population. There are old women, young women, middle aged women, religious women, atheist women, women of color, rich women, poor women, lesbian women, bisexual women, trans women, straight women…and the list goes on and on.

So there are many feminists who don’t agree with the “Lean In” concept, but I am one woman who loves it, and that is why Sandberg is the Broad of the Week!

Three Reasons that I love Sheryl Sandberg:

  1. She is not afraid to focus – One of the most common criticisms of Sandberg is that she “blames women” for not being about to break the glass ceiling because she doesn’t talk about things like flex time, family leave options and company programs for women. Just like “feminism,” “women in the work force” is a large umbrella with many related components. Sandberg has decided to focus on one of those components, which is that because of societal messages that women receive over their lifetimes, they are more likely to drop out of the work force, less likely to be aggressive when asking to raises and promotions and more likely to be responsible for the majority of child care and housework. Sandberg is arguing that as a result of these things, most women don’t make it to the top. She’s focusing on one issue, instead of trying to fix everything at once.
  2. She says she wants to start a movement – Yes, Sandberg wrote a book that was a topic of discussion in the mainstream media months before it came out. But she didn’t stop there. She started a movement. Agree with it or not, Sandberg is using her power as a top female executive to get people thinking about women smashing that elusive glass ceiling. On the website,, women are encouraged to “start a circle,” which is, “like a book club focused on helping members achieve their goals.” There are even “circle kits,” that guide women through the process of creating their own circle. Points for preparedness, Sheryl.
  3. She isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t pretend to be – This is a woman who has taken a lot of criticism recently. Her book has been called a “vanity project” because she focuses on her accomplishments. She has been called an elitist because she has a Harvard education. Despite the fact that everyone else expects her to be perfect, she doesn’t pretend to be. In her 2010 Ted Talk she admits to feeling guilty when she has left her daughter to go to work. In her book, she says that her boss, Mark Zuckerberg told her that, “her desire to be liked by everybody would hold her back.” Her book didn’t come out of thin air; it is based off of characteristics that a top businesswoman has seen in herself and in other women that she has worked with. That kind of insider observation is priceless, and is I think everyone should read “Lean In.”

Contributor Leigh Ann Renzulli is a senior journalism major and women’s studies minor at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is a feminist with a blog and is on Twitter @lerenzulli.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

If you’re interested in buying Lean In, help support The Broad Side by purchasing it here.  A portion of the cost will come back to the site to help pay our writers and keep the content coming!

  • terrific piece, ms. renzulli. i was delighted that you came away from reading Lean In with much the same feeling i did. i will also point out that it’s obvious from your essay that you *read* the book, something that many of sandberg’s most strident and critical reviewers clearly didn’t. it’s a shame to read a piece that accuses sandberg of something and links a review of sandberg’s book as proof – when sandberg’s own book, in several pertinent places, disproves the claim.

    • Candace, Thanks for leaving a comment. And just to keep setting the record straight, some of us who were more critical DID READ THE BOOK.

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