In LEAN OUT, Marissa Orr, who began her career as a founding member of Google’s Sales Operations & Strategy Team, takes a long, hard, and honest look at the gender gap and, in the process, exposes a lot of bad narrative out there. Because, hey, female empowerment should never be women telling each other how to behave and what to want out of life, right? Right. Shockingly, though, when you break down a lot of today’s chart-topping literature, it’s crazy how the narrative is driven by that rhetoric. Often without us realizing that what is sold as self-improvement is thinly veiled girl shaming. I’d never considered myself ignorant in that respect, but I had been. Mind blown.
Orr succinctly exposes said bad narrative, backed up by research and numerous examples. A highlight reel of what is being sold as truth: 1) women have to want to be successful (and by success a corporate career is implied) because 2) other women fought hard for women today to have that choice (the paradox is that being told what to do is not choice), and 3) what women need to be successful is to cease a whole catalog of behaviors and start acting more like… men. Yes, men. Because, apparently, to be equal, we need to be the same. If you feel like that doesn’t much like modern feminism, Orr couldn’t agree more. That the corporate structure is outdated (a remainder of the Industrial Age) and was created by men, and as a result is geared mainly toward men, who thrive off an incentive structure that rewards a rise through the corporate ranks with ever greater power, the authority to hire and fire, while many women would find, i.e., flexible working hours a greater incentive, is given little consideration.
In LEAN OUT, Marissa Orr offers us an alternative to, among others, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement. A movement of which former First Lady, Michelle Obama, said, “That sh*t doesn’t work all the time.” Because as Orr aptly pinpoints, at the heart of the gender gap is corporate dysfunction, something that no amount of leaning in can fix. The LEAN OUT alternative: instead of leaning into the corporate structure, we can choose to LEAN OUT, to define success around well-being instead of winning.
LEAN OUT is a book that provides brilliant and timely insights and much food for thought.
Book: Lean Out: The Truth About Women, Power, and the Workplace
Published: HarperCollins Leadership
Publication Date: June 11th, 2019
Reviewed by: Meredith Mara