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Title: Neoliberalism and 'Lean In' : spaces for feminist solidarity?
Author: Hübner, Kristin
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 8169
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2019
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In this thesis, I examine the Lean In phenomenon, by which I mean Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013), its critical reception in British and US media outlets, and the Lean In Circles which it spawned. I discuss the book’s messages and their link to feminist and neoliberal discourses and demonstrate how these messages were reproduced, challenged and transformed not just by the book’s journalistic audience but also by women who had read and engaged with it and participated in Lean In Circles. My analysis is based on a year-long participant observation in five different Lean In Circles in England and semi-structured interviews with nine of their members. It is further based on my analysis of Sandberg’s book and its media reception, both of which I examined using thematic analysis and following Carol Bacchi’s (2009) approach to analysing policy texts. In the literature, Lean In has been considered a prime example of the entanglement of neoliberal and feminist discourses. It has been criticised for overlooking the importance of structural inequalities and for its strong focus on what the individual – and primarily white, middle-class and highly-educated – woman can do to overcome gender related obstacles in the workplace. In this thesis, I contextualise this criticism of the book by studying Lean In as a broader phenomenon and paying attention to its social effects. I show that while the text itself may be an exemplar of neoliberal feminism, the effects of the Lean In phenomenon are more nuanced and contradictory and, in some cases, have given rise to challenges to structural gender inequalities at work. This research thus contributes to the academic debate on Lean In and the entanglement of neoliberal and feminist discourses through its multi-layered analysis of the Lean In phenomenon.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; JC Political theory