Submitted by: Julianne Reichert, Duane Morris LLP
“What would YOU do if you weren’t afraid?” Too many of us allow fear to control our professional lives. When courage triumphs over fear, we realize how uniquely powerful we can be as individuals. I first learned of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” several months ago through Levo League, a startup founded on the idea of women elevating other women. The moment that I heard of her book tour stop in Philadelphia, I leaned in, volunteering to write this Young Professionals Network blog that you are now reading. (Thanks to the program’s partners – Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia and Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce – and the many other sponsors for bringing Sheryl Sandberg to our city!)
Sheryl opened up the conversation by discussing the three takeaways she wants readers of her book to have: #1 – If we believe in ourselves, we can nurture and lead if we choose to; #2 – Men need to understand that equality benefits them; #3 – We underestimate our potential and performance in comparison to men.
From courage and mentorship to the correlation of success and likeability, Sheryl discussed numerous valuable topics, not only for women, but also for men.
We must have the courage to sit at the table, regardless of whether we believe we belong there. Sit there anyway. Ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid, and let courage drive you! Nothing is lost when trying. When fear is eliminated from the equation, we can reach for unlimited opportunities.
Sheryl spoke in detail about the importance of finding a good mentor, explaining that doing so is an active process. We cannot simply wait for a mentor. We must first excel, and then we will find one. The X-factor that gets you a mentor is offering to help someone with a project. Sheryl considers it a badge of honor to mentor a young woman. Mentorship is more of a two-way relationship than people realize.
When interviewing with a company, make sure you do your research. Rather than simply asking the interviewer to tell you about the company culture, it would be more effective to ask, “I read 20 articles about Facebook’s culture. Can you tell me about …?” Be specific when answering questions about challenges that you have effectively tackled in your current or previous roles. Another good question to ask is, “What is your biggest challenge and how can I help solve it?”
When negotiating a raise or new job offer, articulate how it’s good for the company. Too many women negotiate with “I” in mind, when it really should be “we.” We give away our power when we believe that we don’t have any.
According to Sheryl, the single most important decision we make in our careers is who we marry. You need a partner who is going to be a strong support system and someone with whom you will be happy sharing so much of your life.
Career Advancement – Lean In or Leave?
Many women are at some point faced with the decision of whether to lean in or leave for a new opportunity. To lean in, you must first determine what’s important to you and then go after it. Sheryl made a great point, suggesting that we must always be learning and growing. In the absence of education and growth, it is time to leave.
Success & likeability
Think of two equally successful people – a man and a woman – either in your workplace or network. Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between success and likeability for men but a negative one for women. In other words, a successful woman is not as well liked as a successful man. Citing commonly used phrases on children’s clothing, such as “smart like daddy” and “pretty like mommy,” Sheryl explained that we need to actively work to change these stereotypes. Women can be successful and well-liked. Stop calling young girls bossy; start recognizing that they have executive leadership skills.
Leaning in isn’t just about asking for more in the workplace; it’s about moving forward with courage, despite fear. It’s about knowing what’s important to you and going for it. It’s not about giving up a family life to excel in your career; it’s about learning how to effectively and efficiently manage both. It’s about speaking up and knowing your worth. This book is only the beginning of a long overdue national conversation on women and breaking the gender stereotypes. Visit LeanIn.Org for additional information. Lean in and ask how you can contribute to the conversation.