Op-ed pick: Learning to like “Lean In”

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” is still sparking conversations and commentaries over a year after it was published. Margaret Barthel, a college senior when the book hit stores, was once filled with contempt for the Facebook executive’s manifesto. Here’s what she wrote in The Atlantic:

My huffy critique ran something like this: Lean In speaks to and for a very specific group of women—highly educated, skilled professionals, most privileged by their wealth and many by their race. What does it have to offer women of color or lower income women?

But after graduating, looking for work and finding none, she gave “Lean In” another try.

I ended up taking a second look at Sheryl Sandberg, whose neglect of the pervasiveness of racial, socioeconomic, and gender-based social barriers sparked such criticism from my college self (then safely at school on my parents’ dime). Not so (or not so much) anymore: What I needed now, far more than feminist theory, was someone to tell me that I did have the personal strength to respond to the vast, impossibly complex challenges of finding meaningful work in this economy and preparing to navigate the professional world as a young woman. I needed an example of someone who had the audacity to consider the individual, not society, the center of paradigm shifts. I needed a reminder that I owed it to myself to respect the power of my own agency.

You can read Barthel’s entire column here.