In Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” and Bell Hooks’ “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In”, the writers take on opposing viewpoints of women in the work place’s ability to achieve equality and climb up the corporate ladder in modern day America. In Sandberg’s article, she argues that the lack of gender equality in the workplace is largely due to the different methods women are conditioned to adhere to upon birth that discourage women from advocating for themselves whereas men are encouraged to be bold and stand up for themselves on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Hooks makes a counter argument by asserts that Sandberg fails to avoid the economic facts that also contribute to women’s inability to achieve equality in a work setting. Each author asserts various stances on feminism to explain the discrepancies within female equality in America. Considering Sheryl Sandberg and Bell Hooks’ articles, I contend that Sandberg’s argument hold truth idealistically but fail to acknowledge enough economic and race related factors while Hooks unfairly undermines a great deal of truth in the conditioning of women that Sandberg has noted.

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In Sandberg’s “Lean In” article, she opines that women are largely suffering from their own inability to advocate for themselves in the workforce. She discusses her own experiences of inequality and discrimination she has faced in regards to gender. However, I aver Sandberg falls short due to her underdeveloped explanations of feminism. Sandberg essentially equates feminism to equality between men and women. Unfortunately, I insist that equality is dependent on many more facets. To begin, social constructions are undeniably difficult to disrupt. While I agree that Sandberg’s overarching message geared toward empowering women remains true, I contend that her analysis is not accessible to all women. As a result, it falls short in achieving its overarching goal.

In a counterargument to Sandberg, Bell Hooks touches on some of the shortcomings Sandberg fails to acknowledge. Hooks considers Sandberg’s failure to address wealth as part of the equation when pursuing the pathway for equality. She rightfully argues that Sandberg treats women as a “singular identity” despite the complications of other factors (Hooks.) Women should not be compressed into a single area of study. Other complexities shaping identity include gender and class division. I agree with Hook’s criticism on her simplistic stance that fails to recognize all the intricacies inherently linked to the struggle for equality within women in the workforce. Hooks places a huge emphasis on the wealth of women. I agree with Hooks on her stance towards the pivotal capacity of socioeconomic stance to influence potential for growth.

This being said, I would go on to add that Sandberg also fails short in recognizing the influence race has in achieving equality. While Hooks briefly acknowledges this facet, she does not give it justice. Sandberg, a white woman has had an undeniably easier time climbing up the corporate ladder than women of different races. White women have a different historical role than women of other minority groups. Hooks often blames this on the class individuals come from. I believe racism is imbedded into our culture enough that even social class has trouble breaking its seemingly impenetrable barriers. Certain systematic constructions do not permit women to succeed by mere willpower and ambition.

In Sandberg’s attempt to encourage women, she idealistically suggests that women can achieve merit in the workplace by deliberately “making the decision” to work hard and accomplish great feats (Sandberg). Unfortunately, this naïve notion cannot compete with the classicism and racism that discriminate a huge portion of women. With the increase in class division, its shaping of codifying success is pivotal. In doing so, some of her allegations appear judgmental in her belief that women merely need to choose to enter a formerly male domain. As Hook argues, Sandberg’s assertion as to why women are outnumbered in corporate America does not realistically depict most women in America. Like Hook, I believe Sandberg ignores certain systematic truths to contend that women do not obtain wealth because of life choices.

However, despite Sandberg’s idealistic assertions, I think Hooks takes on a stance that discredits Sandberg too dismissively. While many of Sandberg’s anecdotes and personal stories reflect a biased point of view from an upper class white woman, Sandberg does address an undeniable conditioning for women to be submissive. She discusses the difficulties of raising children amidst a career and discusses the patriarchal set up that inevitably remains key in today’s society. Regardless of the race and class, Sandberg points out the constructions women and men are expected to adhere to. Hooks on the other hand, fails to give Sandberg credence for the sociological upbringing all women are exposed. To a certain degree, women should be encouraged to “lean in” in order to dismantle the constructions people have been taught to uphold upon birth.

All this being considered, I believe Sandberg and Hooks make legitimate arguments on feminism despite minor issues in their development. Due to Sandberg’s shortsighted point of view, I contend her message becomes inaccessible to a huge portion of women. While Hooks points out these discrepancies, I believe she unjustly dismisses Sandberg’s legitimate argument on certain social constructions that indiscriminately face women. As a result, both arguments maintain truth but unfairly disregard certain valuable points that contribute to feminism in the workplace. For this reason, each argument should be mixed to contribute to the conversation of feminism and equality in corporate America.

  • Hooks, Bell. “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In.” They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Comp. Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. 659. Print.
  • Sandberg, Sheryl. “Lean In: What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. Comp. Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. 642. Print.