Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In mantra doesn’t seem to be easing up if the enthusiasm of the four thousand women who attended the BlogHer conference with the Facebook COO in Chicago is anything to go by.
Sandberg used the event to emphasise that the message behind her bestselling book is not to berate women who aren’t aiming for boardroom or CEO positions, but rather that Lean In is actually about reframing the way the world talks about women and about believing in ourselves. She said it’s about “reaching for any ambition and asking ourselves what we would do if we weren’t afraid”.
“We want to provide women with the encouragement and support to lead. We want women and men to believe we can get to real equality … We want to close the pay gap,” Sandberg said.
Below are three lessons from Sandberg’s BlogHer conference session:
Change the way we speak about women
As a society we need to talk more openly about gender and think about the long-term impact on how we speak about the roles of men and women, said Sandberg.
“The blunt truth is men run the world. I say that on stages and the audience gasps … There isn’t a single country in the world that doesn’t have 95% of its companies run by men … That needs to change,” she said.
Sandberg added that when little girls lead, they’re called bossy and, over time, children internalise these messages. Women who lead are disliked and often referred to as being “aggressive”, but this isn’t the fault of women or men, it’s the message that’s interpreted by a collective society over a long period.
“Next time you want to call your daughter bossy, take a deep breath and say, ‘My daughter has executive leadership skills.'”
Don’t apologise for leaning in
Sandberg has previously spoken about how when women enter a meeting, they will often take the seats lined along the wall, instead of sitting at the main table.
She urges more women to sit at the centre table, and to do it unapologetically because “it’s going to take all of us working together” to restructure the way women are viewed.
“Everywhere I go, senior executive men say to me, ‘You are costing me so much money because all the women in my company are demanding raises’,” but Sandberg said she won’t apologise for encouraging women to ask for what they deserve.
Find communities of support
Sandberg said the most important idea behind her ‘Lean In’ message is within the book’s ‘lean in circles’ because “none of us can do it alone” and we all need support – not only in the workplace but also encouragement externally to achieve our goals.
She said finding communities of women who are looking for mutual support, opening up to them and answering questions about what’s holding us back, can be empowering.
“It’s about every woman who leans in, every man who leans in for equality. It’s about realising whatever our individual dreams are and leaning on each other for the support you need to get there.”
Read the transcript of Sandberg’s talk here.