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Lean In. Realise your fears. And then overcome them.

Have you read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead yet? Over 1 million copies have sold so far in at least 11 different languages; so if you bought one of them I’d be interested to know what you thought?

After flying all the way from Australia to Chicago, a particular highlight of my past 3 days at BlogHer13 was spending a morning with Sheryl Sandberg (yep just me, Sheryl and a few hundred other women!).  Sandberg (author of Lean In and COO of Facebook who reportedly became a billionaire on its listing) was keen to share her thinking on the Lean In concept.

And after the main presentation, some of us stayed on to experience how the Lean In Circles work in practice (I’ll save the mechanics for another post, but the vote from my “circle” was a big thumbs up!)

Sandberg began the day by explaining she is unapologetically a businesswoman and unapologetically a feminist, and how she’s managed to reconcile the two.  She believes it will take all of us working together to make change happen, and for true gender equality to become the norm in our workplaces.

And she thinks women have the power – individually and collectively – to make the necessary difference for our own generations and those that follow.

But you know what? I went into this presentation with some skepticism.  I wondered whether women haven’t done enough leaning in already? Whether it wasn’t time to shift the emphasis from leaning in to leaning on important influencers instead?

Influencers like career sponsors (by Sandberg’s own admission Larry Summers opened many doors throughout her career); or those CEOs and business leaders who drive corporate culture from the top? (and who, throughout the world, are overwhelmingly men).

Sandberg herself proved the point when she asked the women in the audience: “Who here was told they were bossy as kids?” – and around 70% of hands shot in the air.  “And who here has been told – at any time throughout their career – that they’ve been too aggressive at work?”  This time more than 90% of hands went up.

These stereotypes are hard to break down. They’re ingrained in attitudes that are hard to shift.  And they won’t move unless they’re forced to.  So Sandberg says the book is about trying to point out these stereotypes, so that something can give.

Having now met Sheryl Sandberg, I get where she’s going with this. Quite simply, she wants women to imagine what they would do if they weren’t afraid. And then do it.

And as she recounted stories of women who’ve been spurred into action by the book, I realized it’s having the desired effect already.

Women who have asked for a payrise for the first time in 15 years. Women who have started their own businesses. Women who have gone back to school, to create a better life for their kids.  One by one, Sandberg recounted stories of women who have been encouraged and empowered to take action to improve their position, and that can only be a good thing.

Less than a year from its inception, the community is 250,000 members strong and all of them are sharing their fears, their aspirations and increasingly, their success stories (with the hashtag #notafraid).

I know now what I’d do if I weren’t afraid… so how about you?

I’d love you to post your comments and share your thoughts.


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2 months ago

Jen Dalitz

What are the lessons you’re teaching your kids? We took the opportunity of a holiday long weekend to visit my mum interstate as the timing of the trip coincided with my son’s favourite AFL team battling it out against my mum’s beloved team. Perhaps only those of you with the love for AFL will appreciate why we’d plan a long distance trip around a game of footy, but suffice to say it was a passion project! With every ounce of anticipation, the game was a tough, tight duel and could easily have gone either way. Yet when the final siren sounded, it wasn’t our team that was smiling. It sure is tough for a 10 year old boy to sit within a crowd 41,000+ people all cheering for the opposite side. It was tough for him to see the exhaustion and disappointment on the faces of the players he adores. And yet, it’s so important for him to learn that his team won’t always win. There’s so many lessons in that, but the one I chose to instil is that you won’t always back the team that wins but you’ll always back the team that you love. That’s why I asked him to wear his team colours home the next day, and show his support even when the chips are down. That’s the kind of commitment I want my son to learn and the kind of team player I want him to be. PS. #gotheGiants @GWSGiants #neversurrender ... See MoreSee Less

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4 months ago

Jen Dalitz

I haven’t been here in a while as the writing has been on hold. But I was reminded today that there are things in our life that light us up. That might take us out of our comfort zone but, once you sit with it, bring you both joy and a sense of “I can do this” achievement. These moments are such a gift. So I’m curious, what’s your special thing that lights you up?

Despite (or in spit of) my professional career, these moments for me normally involve my horses. I’ll never be an equestrian Olympian, but I take great pleasure in all the lessons my horses teach me. They remind me that it’s a team effort, we’re in it together, and that if I’m prepared to give a little bit more, they will too. That’s true whether we’re on the ground taking care of their feet, or grooming, or when I’m atop riding as one. Two hearts one team.
It’s hard to describe the adrenaline and joy they bring to my life. But I’d love to know, what lights you up??
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And so, maybe time does change some things. Or women do.

Skavlan Talkshow
– They let me go at 42 because they told me I was too old to represent women's dreams. #kvinnedagen

Watch our talk show interview with Isabella Rossellini here:
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