Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leaning In

Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" movement has me completely captivated. I even pre-ordered her book this weekend--a very uncharacteristic move for me.

My initiation occurred with the reading of the Levo League's blog post last week: "Why Levo is Leaning In". Next, I read the now well-known and widely criticized New York Times article: "A Titan's How-To on Breaking the Glass Ceiling". Then, I found Sandberg on TIME magazine's cover: "Confidence Woman". Suddenly the majority of my tweets reflected the hashtag #LeaningIn.

Is Lean In a modern feminist manifesto? I don't know yet and I'm not particularly invested in determining the accuracy of that label. It's not why I'm interested. For me, the "Lean In" movement provides means to identify the internal obstacles I face in relation to my ability to succeed professionally, as well as personally.

A key question Sandberg poses in her book is "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" This is a question well worth the asking, and one I pose to myself frequently.   

“Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal.” - Sheryl Sandberg 

I'm very interested in identifying the internal barriers that hold me back. Those are ones I can control.

Being Mormon, I'm aware my views on family and career often differ from the average 20-something single girl just getting started. My deepest desire is to be a wife and mother. For me, that is the bottom line--that is what matters most. I greatly value education and contributing to society in a meaningful way, but having a high-power career isn't my number one, end-all goal. However, that doesn't mean professional success isn't important to me.

"For decades, we have focused on giving women the choice to work inside or outside the home. . . . But we have to ask ourselves if we have become so focused on supporting personal choices that we’re failing to encourage women to aspire to leadership." - Sheryl Sandberg

I didn't go to college to get married, what Mormons jokingly refer to as getting an MRS degree. I went to college to advance my studies and earn a degree. However, I always assumed marriage would come along during those years. I'm not sure what I thought would happen after graduation, but I know I didn't expect to face decisions about my future career alone.

Since graduating with my bachelor's degree in May 2010, I've struggled to figure out how to align my approach to my career in relation to my desire to become a wife and mother. I don't aspire to a professional position equivalent to Sheryl Sandberg. However, I want to do work I'm passionate about and challenge myself to take risks. Just because a high-profile career isn't my number one goal, it doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't excel and take on leadership roles in the workplace.

I see "Lean In" as an important piece of the puzzle I'm trying to solve. A new way to look and examine how I approach my life. We all deserve to feel empowered in all arenas. I want more experiences where I lean in rather than lean back.  

Additional great reads about Lean In and Sheryl Sandberg:

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