Leaning In for discussion about and awareness of women’s leadership Posted on November 14th, 2013 by


Thanks Mary Gaebler for her terrific pictures!

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In has sparked dialogue about women’s role in leadership and more generally in organizations in almost every quarter. Marcia Bunge and I co-hosted a book discussion group on Tuesday evening for Gustavus faculty and staff, tackling topics that both praised and critiqued this book. No matter your reaction, Lean In is THE current discussion focus on why there are not more women in influential, top organizational posts commensurate with female representation in colleges and graduate programs like MBAs across the country. And, although Sandberg’s central themes have been covered in other recent books—analogies have been made to Tina Fey’s Bossypants, for example—Lean In has a built-in resource arm, personal stories, and an extremely popular TED Talk that have made conversations mushroom around the world.

Personally I have found the conversations energizing and constructive. I think what Lean In offers  is a lot like a phrase I heard in recovery groups: take what you need and leave the rest. There is no shortage of quite vitriolic critique, and less vitriolic critique, and I agree with some of it [mostly the co-opted corporatization of the “movement” and how easy it is for corporations to “support” women’s leadership without actually having to DO anything to foster it], but I also appreciated Sandberg calling out women’s experiences that may have been in the shadow before— no one was really talking about them in an evidence-based way. For example, the Heidi—Howard likeability gap is really important to understand as a pretty shared female phenomenon [despite the methodology criticisms], not something that happens to just a few of us. Once we let go of the power that needing to be likeable as well as competent has on our ascension, we have moved ahead. We do need to support each other, and I found the call to foster little changes for big results to be timely and approachable.

The Gustavus Women in Leadership group will be holding similar book discussions this spring and I am delighted to be facilitating those both at the ASI in February and here on campus in March. Check out GWIL’s calendar of events! I look forward to fostering more discussions and hearing your comments!


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