What do women in China think of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In?

Meet Olivia

Meet Olivia

Let me tell you about my friend Olivia.

A young professional working in Beijing like myself, Olivia is a graphic designer. Originally from Hunan province in south-central China, she moved to Beijing for university where she went to design school and studied architecture. She is crazy talented, thoughtful, and generous. And while she does like the opportunities that living in a big city like Beijing provides, she loves the Chinese countryside, and would love to raise her eventual family in a less polluted environment.

I recently picked up a copy of Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In, and took it back to Beijing with me. I wanted to see what my Chinese girlfriends thought of the conversation started by Sandberg’s original TEDTalk and continued by the book, “the ways women are held back—and the way we hold ourselves back.”

I emailed her some questions about the book, she jotted answers in her notebook, and is graciously letting me share those ideas with you.

Notes in Olivia's notebook: "Equality between partners leads to happier relationships."

Notes in Olivia’s notebook: “Equality between partners leads to happier relationships.”

Overall impression

Sheryl’s a clever woman. Her words are easy to understand, and she understands others’ situations.

What had the most impact?

“It’s a jungle gym, not a ladder,” and “Make your partner a real partner.”

I know you had many favorite quotes–your favorites?

“There’s only one way to the top of the ladder, but there are many ways to the top of the jungle gym.”

“Equality between partners leads to happier relationships.” Relationships in Chinese society aren’t equal. Chinese men prefer really skinny,  small girls. They want to protect them and feel powerful.

What do you want in life?

To find the value of life–love.

What are the most important things (in life)?

Find your potential–your happiness can change the people that surround you.

Is career the most important?

No.

What about for most Chinese women?

A husband–Chinese parents tell their daughters to find a man who can care for them (money).

Previously, you told me you were worried about finding a husband or boyfriend–you’re 26 years old. After reading books like Chinese-American former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles Joy Chen‘s Do Not Marry Before 30, you didn’t care as much when you got married, why?

I’ve been able to meet people totally different from myself. I have an American friend, and we encourage each other. We believe to try to be yourself, and you’ll find someone naturally attracted to you, for you.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about how important finding an equal partner is, that’s what I look for in a partner, equality. Most Chinese women look for money, appearance, a house, and a car.

What advice would you give to young women?

Don’t rely on your appearance so much. Real charming women have wisdom. They have an open heart, are open minded, and have a clear mind to situations, focusing on what’s inside.

Any other comments?

Why did I get into these books? The first one I read was Do Not Marry Before 30. It was introduced to me by my friend Zeng, who lives in America. She loves me so much–we are sisters. She also cares about my marriage. And when I still don’t have a boyfriend, she gave me this book, and said this time has not come yet. Enjoy life. How you live life alone impacts your married life.

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I need to thank Olivia more than just letting me interview her–she’s been one of my best friends in Beijing since I moved here in April of 2012. We’ve done language exchange together, she’s helped me do my “Mandarin Check” videos, and been a great support. She’s a wonderful person, and I know she’ll have a big impact on those around her for years to come.

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