Back in 2013, many women of a certain ideological stripe and geographic location (D.C., New York, or basically any big city) wanted to be just like a woman most of us had only recently heard of: Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook.
With her blockbuster book, Lean In, she seemed to offer women a way—as long as we had nannies, an education, and smart biz-cazh attire—to finally get treated the way men do at the office.
The answer: It was on us. She had anodyne advice for being noticed: “Sit at the table,” literally. She had tips for tricking your boss into thinking you’re working harder than you are: “Holding my first and last meetings of the day in other buildings to make it less transparent when I was actually arriving and departing.”
She brought tough love, comparing women who (so tactlessly!) ask, “Are you my mentor?” to little hatchlings who ask, “Are you my mother?” in the eponymous children’s book. “When someone finds the right mentor,” she writes, “it is obvious.”
Some of it was, frankly, useful stuff. What career-driven woman wouldn’t want a job as powerful as second-in-command at Facebook? Who didn’t want to know how she did it?