Male or Female, It’s Important to Lean In

I had read all the mixed reviews of her book, Lean In, so I didn’t quite know what to expect when I met Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg before her speech to the Economic Club of Chicago luncheon yesterday.  Besides being dynamic, successful and personable, she’s also a great storyteller. The stories she tells support the goal of her book–to make women more self confident and, therefore, more successful in business. . .and life.

Sandberg’s “lean in” philosophy is particularly important in public relations where a majority of jobs are held by women.

In her speech to Chicago business leaders, Sandberg discussed the four things we can do right now to help women succeed:

  1. Push back on stereotypes
  2. Help women reach for opportunities, and understand what’s holding us back
  3. Mentor and sponsor women
  4. Help women navigate through the childbearing years

Sandberg builds a case that greater business success and productivity occurs when women are given equal treatment in the workplace. She focuses on the home, too.  “From my mother’s generation to mine, we’ve made more headway in the workforce than at home.” She claims married women do 30% to double more than what husbands are doing in the home. To get the attention of the men in her audiences, she works in this great advice: “If you want to have more sex with your wife, do the laundry.”

She shared personal stories from various stages of her career when women lean away from any sort of workplace challenges–men could be aggressive and be called leaders, while women acting the same way would be called arrogant or worse.

Sandberg’s passion led her to create the Lean In Foundation, which provides valuable information for women and men who want to know more about her work/life philosophy. Two particularly useful tools are the Lean In Discussion Guide for All Audiences and the Lean In Discussion Guide for Managers.

Some will say it’s easy for someone like Sandberg to get on a soapbox since she has more money than she’ll ever need. She didn’t have to take up this cause since she has plenty of friends, a beautiful family and a highly rewarding job. It may take a while, but I believe everyone, male and female, eventually will thank Sheryl Sandberg for leaning in.

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