The Business Book Every Man Needs to Read

Confession time. As a liberal-minded man who does his best to view all people equally, I figured I didn’t have to read Lean In. After all, I’m already striving to create an inclusive work environment for everyone on my team, especially under-represented groups—and in solutions engineering at a hyper-growth software company, that definitely includes women. So what else is there for me to learn, right?


Lean In was an eye-opener for me. What struck me most were the specific stories and circumstances of women’s struggle for equality in the workplace. As the father of a young girl, it brought tears to my eyes imagining someone I love so much being treated unfairly solely due to her gender.

So why did I finally pick the book up, after seeing it on every Shopify book shelf for almost three years now?

I wish I could say it was because of my own independent interest in relieving myself of my illusions that women and men are on equal playing fields in the workplace.

It wasn’t.

It was actually my wife’s interest in reading it that inspired me to tell Alexa, “Read Lean In.” But still, at least I got there. And you should too (or re-read it).

At the risk of mansplaining my takeaways from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, I want to share what struck me the most.

  1. The business world doesn’t like ambitious women, but praises ambitious men. And both genders do this without knowing it. Sandberg shares a study where business school students read the story of a highly successful entrepreneur and are asked if they would like to work with this person. When the students read it with the entrepreneur's actual name, seeing that she’s a woman, they generally don’t want to work with her, as she comes across as too ambitious and self-serving. When they read the case study with a man’s name instead, they can’t wait to get him on their team because he seems so determined and creative.

  2. I learned about “leaving before you leave.” This is when women are thinking of having kids and scale back their professional ambitions to avoid stepping out of a leadership role when they start their family. Sandberg relates stories of women who don’t even have a partner yet and are trying to figure out how they’ll balance work and family. This takes their foot of the gas pedal for years, needlessly. As a man, I’ve never deeply worried about this, knowing that in the end I probably wouldn’t need to be the primary caretaker for any children I would have. The fact that so many women regularly stare this challenge in the face, and make big professional decisions based on it left me feeling confused and uncomfortable.

  3. And I loved how the title referred not just to women leaning in at work, but also to men leaning in at home. Prior to reading this book I felt like a superhero for being in charge of dinner and taking care of the kids before and after work. That’s not bad by current standards, but those standards are pretty shit. I think if more men owned more of the unglamorous stuff (e.g. diapers, dishes, tidying, etc.), we’d have a deeper understanding of and a better relationship with our life partners.
This is just the tip of the iceberg that Lean In illuminated for me in terms of the challenges women face at work that men rarely even consider. I encourage you to read it. Or read it again. I know I’m five years late here (the book came out in 2013, after all) but I’m so inspired by it. And not just for what we can create in today’s work environment, but for a future that receives people like my daughter with equal opportunities for leadership, regardless of gender.