Why “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg Can Help You!

I have heard fellow business students speak about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” over the past semester and knew I had to read it.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the business world is evolving and women are taking more risks, or if it is because I attend an all women’s day college, but the popularity of this book is making its mark.  I have lofty goals and know the glass ceiling still exists in many ways for women.  As soon as my semester was over, I dove into this book.  The main concept that is discussed in this book is the fact that women tend to steer clear of the table, when they should be willing to sit down, even if they are the only woman, and “lean in.”  It is necessary for women to become more involved in the business, the dialog, the negotiations, and to not fear discussing important topics.

Sandberg even goes as far as discussing the need for women to speak about their family choices such as having a baby, and to not turn down opportunities because they think their pregnancy or children will affect it.  Instead, they should determine the choice they make based on their desires.  I have seen how women limit themselves, and I am a shining example of this as I have always put others ahead of myself, until recently.  I think Sandberg makes an important point because women tend to remain silent when they should be speaking up!  It is crucial for women to know where they are going and what they want.

As more equality is found in the workplace, more fathers will need to step up, and I have seen this happening as well.  My husband is incredibly supportive, and while I can nitpick and say he is not taking on enough housework, he takes on a great deal of the work with the kids.  I assume that as I work more outside of the home, he will step up even more and take on housework.  Sandberg shows the unfortunate seclusion men face when they become the primary caregivers for their children, and this dynamic also needs to change if women are to rely on them more.  The important thing is for the dialog to continue so changes can be made.  Women need to “lean in” because their opinions and challenges matter.  Without an equal say, there cannot be an equal society.

Sandberg brings up important topics, some of which are already widely discussed, but her overall message is important to the development of women in the workforce.  There are many things I will take away from this book, but more importantly, when I find myself backing away from a situation because I am one of the only women, or I am nervous, I will “lean in.”

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Empowering Women Series!

I am going to write about this ever-important topic this week because this is something that affects both men and women.  There is still a gap in pay between the genders, a glass ceiling, and a social model that objectifies women.  There are women around the world with no control over their lives, their bodies, or their fates.  There are women in abusive relationships who struggle to keep any shred of confidence or dignity.

How does this affect men?  As times change, men are seeing how this inequality affects their mothers, aunts, wives, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters.  They see co-workers who work just as hard, if not harder, get less pay.  They see the statistics and actual benefits of having women at the top, at board meetings, in project committees, and in other leadership roles.  The data is there, and it will be explored later this week in a blog post detailing the ways women can benefit companies who invest in them.  When men and women come together, share ideas, and work together, great things happen.

How can we empower women today?  There are various avenues that should be taken to help women to succeed.  It begins with a change in stereotypes and mindsets that limit the expansion of women in fields typically enjoyed by men.  The sciences is just one example, and women are finally breaking the glass ceiling in this area, but not completely.  More work needs to be done.  From helping girls to realize their potential in the earlier years of school, supporting them when they have dreams to accomplish great things, allowing them to lead without being termed “bossy,” and listening to them, we can initiate changes.

Colleges tend to have higher rates of women working toward degrees compared to men, yet, men still hold a vast majority of the executive positions.  This is a problem.  Women are not hired or advanced in some careers because they are of child-bearing age.  It is time to cast aside the plague of discrimination that permeates our society and become a part of an advanced, equal, more successful 21st century.  Join me this week as I tackle the various reasons that hold women back, analyze the statistics related to this important issue, and explore simple changes we can make in our lives to become empowered, or for men, ways you can help to empower the women in your lives.

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Reflections of Walden Pond

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Two years ago, during my second semester at Cedar Crest College, my “Edgar Allan Poe and the Mad Romantics” class went on a trip to Salem and Concord, MA.  While there are many experiences I has on that trip, and I will visit them later in my blogs, the day at Walden Pond was uniquely transcendent.

The early fall day hung over us, it was a cloudy day with rain barely held in by the clouds, waiting to burst open.  The pond held the reflections of newly changed leaves and the remnants of a green summer.  What was most profound was the feeling that Thoreau’s footsteps still echoed in the heart of the land, under the years of changing landscape.  His words were whispered by the trees as visitors from all over the world came to find solitude where Thoreau did, even if it was just for an hour.

I did not have a spiritual epiphany, nor did I figure out the secrets of the world, but I was able to see the land, the natural space, that so influenced a writer who holds the hearts of so many.  I connected to the experience as I drew in the chilly fall air, and felt I was on the right path in my life.  I escaped, for a moment, from the crowded moments of technology, and the fast pace of the world we know today.

I saw the reflections of the trees, and thought of Thoreau’s words, “Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; —a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush,—this the light-dust cloth,—which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still.” (Thoreau Chapter 9 “The Ponds”)

Because I had read Walden Pond, I saw the pond through his eyes, and I walked away with an understanding that the natural world holds many lessons, if we can find time from our busy schedules to learn them.

Inspiration from Jean Kwok

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to have breakfast with Jean Kwok, bestselling author of Girl in Translation, and Mambo in Chinatown.  She was a guest speaker at Cedar Crest College, and I was the one chosen to give a short speech/introduction of her before she spoke to the school.  One of the first things I noticed about her was how welcoming, energetic, and open she was.

There were eight of us at the breakfast, including Ms. Kwok, and she told us about her experiences as a writer, her joy at being able to share her life with others, and some hints about a book she is currently writing.  She made everyone at the table feel comfortable, and she listened to our questions.

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After my introduction, she complimented me and even said “that has to be one of the best introductions I have received”.  She didn’t know at the time, but I was so nervous to speak in front of a group of people, and to introduce a bestselling author was terrifying to me.  She helped boost my confidence, and because of that moment, I have been able to speak at other engagements where I have received more praise.

That evening, she spoke about her life and how her experiences after emigrating to the United States impacted her and her family.  She spoke about her family, her education, and how she worked in a clothing factory as a child, at night.  She has taken desperate circumstances, and worked hard to become an inspiration to others.  She now speaks to people around the world, and she is an icon for determination.  She inspired me to push myself even harder.

I highly recommend her books for anyone who has not read them.  She weaves a fiction from her real life experiences, but the honesty of her living conditions help to create a deeper understanding of what it means to struggle, and to find a way out.  If you ever get a chance to listen to her speak, take it, because she has an incredible story.

I will be having dinner with and listening to the Poet Laureate of Wales, Gwyneth Lewis, next week, and will post an update afterwards.  Stay tuned.