A Letter to Sheryl Sandberg on ‘Leaning In’ and Loss


Dear Sheryl Sandberg,

My heart aches for you. The news of your husband’s passing leaves me speechless.

Sheryl Sandberg Leaning in and lossYou are an icon. When I consulted on human resource issues, I felt your book so clearly helped women understand problems in the workplace.

The opening of your book, Lean In, talks about your first pregnancy and the nausea you suffered. At the time, Google was growing significantly and your aching feet were tired of walking through the parking lot. Finally, you waddled into the office of the Google founders and announced the need for pregnancy parking. I read that and laughed because at the time, I, too, was pregnant. I admired your ability to acknowledge an issue and address it immediately.

In your book, you discuss the internal and external issues facing women in order to be successful in the workplace:

“Women face real obstacles in the professional world, including blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment. Too few workplaces offer the flexibility and access to child care and parental leave that are necessary for pursuing a career while raising children. In addition to the external barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives – the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for parents and children who may not even exist yet.”

Your book and legacy bring to the forefront so many issues around gender equality in the workplace and women doing it all. You examine the issues for women and offer solutions to better corporations and the state of women in this country.

You dedicate a chapter to the village you have built: “Make Your Partner a Real Partner.” You talk about your husband Dave as a true partner supporting you and the gender stereotypes existing regarding responsibilities at home. I feel so sad because men like Dave are hard to find. You found him… but now he is gone.

A male friend asked me my opinion of your book because he wanted to read it. I was confused… why would he read it? But then I realized, men need to understand it too. Lean In brings challenges to the forefront, highlighting the stereotypes and barriers for women to succeed in the workplace.

In your TED talks video, you articulate the importance of sitting at the table. You tell the women off to the side sitting in the chairs to come to the table so their opinions are heard and they are involved. As a result, I started walking into meetings and sat at the table. If I was feeling bold, I would even sit at the head of the table.

I’m so sorry. Dave leaves an incredible legacy. I learned of his passing through a friend on Facebook who was thanking him for her ability to progress her career forward. She is an employee with SurveyMonkey and she’s been fortunate enough to balance both work and family successfully because of him.

I write this searching for answers. Why did we lose a good one? How could this happen? I hope you and your family find peace. If you need a few people to help you with your Lean In campaign, I am happy to sit at the table while you take a break. I will even grab some friends to fight the battle while you and your family heal.

To my friends and others who are reading this… would you Lean In with me while Sheryl takes a break?