Lean Out Book Summary - Lean Out Book explained in key points
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Lean Out summary

Marissa Orr

The Truth about Women, Power, and the Workplace

4.5 (96 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

'Lean Out' by Marissa Orr challenges the corporate feminist ideal and offers a critique of the Lean In movement. Orr encourages women to embrace their own unique strengths and values rather than conforming to traditional masculine norms to achieve success in the workplace.

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    Lean Out
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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Masculine assertiveness isn’t something to celebrate or emulate.

    In 2014, Sheryl Sandberg launched the “Ban Bossy” campaign through her Lean In foundation. Sandberg shared that she’d been called “bossy” many times over the course of her career. Many of her female peers – also successful, high-powered executives – had been called “bossy” too. 

    According to Sandberg, men are celebrated when they act assertively. Women, on the other hand, are punished for exhibiting the very same trait that men are rewarded for.

    But, as author Marissa Orr argues, Sandberg’s strategy doesn’t quite stack up.

    The key message in this blink is: Masculine assertiveness isn’t something to celebrate or emulate.

    There’s a valid point underlying Sandberg’s campaign to ban bossy. There are different sets of cultural expectations that shape the way girls and boys are brought up. And these go on to shape the ways men and women behave in the workplace. 

    Girls are celebrated when they display so-called “feminine” qualities, like empathy, kindness, and patience. They’re celebrated for being good listeners and for sharing. By contrast, when they fail to embody these qualities, they’re often reprimanded and called “bossy” or “unladylike.” 

    Boys, on the other hand, are celebrated for displaying so-called “masculine” qualities, like leadership, decisiveness, and even aggression. When they fail to embody these qualities, boys are punished too. They’re labeled as “weak,” “girly,” or a “sissy.”

    There’s no doubt these gender stereotypes create huge problems for both women and men.

    But while Sandberg’s style of feminism identifies the stereotypes as a problem, it doesn’t offer a sensible solution. According to Sandberg, women need to get over their fear of being seen as “bossy” and adopt masculine qualities in order to get ahead.

    So, girls who don’t conform to feminine stereotypes get punished by society. Now, women who don’t strive to emulate masculine stereotypes are punished by corporate feminism, too.

    According to Orr, when women advance their careers by leaning in to conventionally masculine behaviors, they’re not agents of change. They’re not creating a better working environment for all women. No. They are part of an elite group in a corporate system that disenfranchises women as a whole. 

    Women shouldn’t be asking how they can succeed within these corporate systems. They should be asking how they can dismantle them.

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    What is Lean Out about?

    Lean Out (2019) is an impassioned critique of corporate feminism. Rather than “lean in” to the patriarchal structures and misogynistic systems of the corporate world, it suggests that women take a step back and stop trying to act like men in order to get ahead.

    Lean Out Review

    Lean Out (2019) by Marissa Orr takes a critical look at the corporate world and challenges the popular idea of leaning in to succeed. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With well-researched insights and personal experiences, Orr offers a fresh perspective on gender disparities and workplace culture, making readers reconsider the conventional wisdom.
    • By highlighting the unintended consequences of the lean in philosophy, Lean Out sparks a valuable conversation about gender equality and work-life balance.
    • Orr's engaging storytelling style keeps readers hooked, ensuring that the book is an insightful and thought-provoking read from start to finish.

    Who should read Lean Out?

    • Working women who are sick and tired of being told to “man up”;
    • Firms wondering why their top-tier employees all have a Y chromosome; and
    • Any employee who wants to do their bit for diversity.


    About the Author

    Marissa Orr has extensive firsthand experience of misguided corporate attempts to close the gender gap – she worked at Google and Facebook for 15 years, all while she was a single mother of three. Here, the tech industry veteran dissects where corporate feminism is failing women and pinpoints what corporations should really be doing to promote equality in the workplace.

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    Lean Out FAQs 

    What is the main message of Lean Out?

    The main message of Lean Out is that traditional workplace structures do not serve women and offer practical solutions for change.

    How long does it take to read Lean Out?

    The reading time for Lean Out varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Lean Out a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Lean Out is worth reading for its insights into gender dynamics and actionable advice for creating a more inclusive workplace.

    Who is the author of Lean Out?

    Marissa Orr is the author of Lean Out.

    What to read after Lean Out?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Lean Out, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
    • Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel
    • The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
    • Beat Gender Bias by Karen Morley
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong Couples Don't Do by Amy Morin
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport
    • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
    • Unapologetically Ambitious by Shellye Archambeau
    • 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged by H. Norman Wright