Thursday, April 24, 2014

Recap: Lean In Webcast

PwC hosted a webcast today with Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas targeted at students graduating from college soon. It was fascinating. 

Even though I was not the target audience, I enjoyed the session and gained some new perspective on the “Lean In” movement. I still hesitate a bit about this movement and the pressure it creates for women. With that said I appreciate the motivation of Ms. Sandberg much more now. I love that she is challenging men and women to talk about gender differences and the impact in the workforce. To recognize it is real. To proactively engage in the topic to change it. 

Ms. Sandberg is very passionate about creating “circles” where small peer groups can encourage one another to continue to pursue aspirations. Anyone (male or female) can start a circle or join a circle. You can find out more about this at  

Ms. Sandberg was very clear with the lack of progress over the past 10 years with women in leadership. She stated that 15% of corporate level executive jobs, 17% of board seats and less than 6% of C-level jobs have been held by women for 10 years and counting. Virtually no movement. Staggering. Those statistics should make anyone wonder why. I assume her theory is that women aren't “leaning in” and men aren't actively mentoring women to these levels.

Here are some of the key items Sheryl specifically wanted the audience to know. Interesting to hear what she thought was most important for upcoming graduates.
  • “I want you to know you have choices.”
  • “Don’t leave before you leave. Don’t put the brakes on yourself. Don’t limit yourself.”
  • “70% of the people around the world work full time. This is about getting women equal pay to men.”
  • “Careers are like a marathon. As the marathon continues, the voices of encouragement get louder for men. The voices for women get louder too but the message is different. Women hear questions like “Are you sure your kids don’t need you at home.” She didn't have a specific way to address this, other than awareness of this key difference in the messages given to men and women as they reach the point in their career when they are ready to get to the next level.

Rachel Thomas, the President of Lean also commented during the webcast. She focused on 10 tips for graduates included in Ms. Sandberg’s new book “Lean In for Graduates.” These 10 tips really resonate with me even though I am 10 years into my career. I don’t think these tips are only valuable for new graduates or career people. I think these tips are awesome for anyone who has aspirations.

10 Tips from Lean In for Graduates 

  1. Adopt the mantra: “Proceed and be blood.”
  2. Shift from “What do I get?” to a “What can I offer?” mindset.
  3. Negotiated – wisely.
    • Girls out of school make 82 cents compared to a man.
    • You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
    • We expect men to be assertive. We expect women to be collaborative and communal. So it is important for women to use communal language. Talk about how you relate to your team.
  4. Break long-term goals into short term steps.
    • A good short term step has the following componets:
      • Concrete an measurable
      • Achievable in the next 12-18 months
      • A stretch for you but not too far that you won’t actually try to do it
      • Stay flexible and open to new paths
  5. Sit at the table.
    • Confidence – remind yourself you deserve to be there.
  6. Listen to your inner voice.
  7. Don’t ask “will you be my mentor?”
    • If you have to ask, the answer is probably no. Mentors select protégés based on their performance and potential. Peer input can be just as valuable as a mentor.
  8. Understand and challenge gender bias.
    • It’s a balancing act between being confident and nice. It is tricky to be assertive to be effective but there can be social penalties.
    • Awareness begets fairness. Women can advocate and support other women. Celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
  9. Make your partner a real partner.
    • 50/50 is better for everyone.
    • Research shows that families where parents split the work evenly there is less divorce. These couples are more likely to be happier and have more sex.
  10. Don’t leave before you leave. 

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