Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” will be released on March 11th and I’ve already pre-ordered a copy. Ms. Sandberg has also created a non-profit organization to help women ‘lean in’ to their careers and goals.
Although the website for the Lean In organization is still in beta mode, there a multitude of inspiring personal stories from professional women who are pursing their creative goals. From a cursory glance, most of these women appear to be from the technology sector, but definitely not all of them are–Somaly Mam, a Cambodian activist who rescues girls from sexual slavery and fights sexual trafficking is also listed as community member. ( I have read Ms. Mam’s book “The Road of Lost Innocence” and I can’t recommend it highly enough.)
Nicole Gregory is a visual designer who lists Menlo Park California as her home base. She describes how she went from an unfulfilling job at one tech company to a far more creatively satisfying position at a different tech company:
I reached out to a few colleagues who were recruiting for one of the Silicon Valley tech companies I’d only dreamed of working for in the past. After discussing my background and experience, we found there was mutual interest and decided to move forward with a few phone screens. Those phone screens turned into interviews and eventually led to an amazing offer at a very popular tech company—a company that I’m still proud to be a part of today. I soon realized that the limitations which were placed on me in my previous role became the motivation I needed to pursue what really mattered to me. Sometimes when your challenges seem to block one path, they end up helping you find your true direction.
Tracey Soloman, a retail entrepreneur was offered an amazing job opportunity, but the stakes were high and she had to decided how to proceed:
I realized this was my moment. I was driving a significant portion of the agency’s revenue, I had excellent relationships with our clients, and I was well-respected by my colleagues. Why would I disrupt my current work environment for a position that offered me nothing in return? I thanked him for the opportunity, but declined. I told him the position he had described to me was that of a Managing Director, so when he was ready to offer the job at that title and compensation, I would be happy to switch groups. Until then, I planned on staying right where I was. It was a gamble, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I took the job in the way it was being presented to me.
Within a couple of days, he called back to offer me the job, this time as the Managing Director. I accepted without any reservations.
The lesson from Tracey’s story: Do not doubt your worth.
Family or work? Work or family? Women can feel themselves pulled in every direction but the right one when they try to juggle the dual responsibilities of work and family commitments, but women can achieve a balance between the two spheres–if those women lean in.
Regina Wallace-Jones spoke on making time to progress at work and to achieve peace at home:
There is no perfect way to juggle children and work. I want to believe I am fully present professionally, and also as a wife and mother. I also do my part to influence civic and social agendas that are important to me. But to be honest, I often feel extremely scattered, and I need external voices to continue to reassure me that thriving in this journey is possible. This is in part the promise of Lean In. The end state will be collections of capable professionals around the world, who encourage each other with tangible methods to cope and thrive in the work of achieving our professional destiny. If we can orient each other to leaning in when we would otherwise make a different choice, then we can start to affect the stagnant growth of women in senior leadership roles.
Despite some of the criticism leveled against her, Ms. Sandberg has never said that the only women who are truly successful are women like her–women who skillfully balance work and career. Sandberg wrote her book and created her organization to help women advance in their careers who actually have the desire to advance.
You’ll find more words of good advice and inspiration by browsing the Lean In community profiles.
All images in this post are from the Lean In organization website.
Jamila Akil is a Senior Editor at Beyond Black and White. Follow her on Twitter @jamilaakil