Marketing, musings, and the future

Not Leaning, Living: A New Dialog for Women

Like many of you out there, I saw the spate of media attention to the Sheryl Sandberg book, “Leaning In.” And so I bought it and read it…..finding it to be good, but not earthshattering.  Yet there were two interrelated points that stuck with me….the first was the title idea of leaning in—Sheryl observes that many young women stop going for opportunities because they worry about being able to handle a family and a career. And her point is that they take their foot off the gas years before they have the children, years before they have even met a possible mate. Why take your foot off the gas before you know what’s possible, says Sheryl.  Many believe that there is a dearth of female leaders in corporations that show what’s possible.


Something niggled in the back of my head when I read that. A small voice in the back of my head said, “ Is that what made a difference for you?” Was there a female executive that helped you to lean in?


The answer is no. I grew up in rural New York in a traditional household. My mother had been a teacher but decided to stay home with my brother and me. In fact, I have often thought that if I had listened to most of the conventional wisdom I received from adults at that time, I would have become a teacher, librarian, or homemaker—not a biotech executive.


So why did someone like me, “lean in” to a career?


Watching a video from “makers.com”. I heard woman after woman say “I never thought that I’d do X—I just knew I had to change something.” With that thought, the answer came to me.


My pursuit had never been about ambition or money or title…..my pursuit was always about passion. The passion to make a difference.  And with that notion, I had an epiphany that my role model was my grandmother.


My grandmother had strong ideas about the way things should be. And she made them happen. She created the historical society when she felt the history of the village needed to be preserved. She ran the deacons at the church. She was a linchpin in the formation of the volunteer fire department. And when my father and his brothers were growing up, she was the sole breadwinner for the family, working nights in a menial job to keep the family solvent. If she wanted it and believed in it, she made it happen.


It’s not about just leaning….it is about figuring out what you are passionate about and going for it. I had a role model for this—thanks, grandma, in so many ways, I never would have made it here without you.


What disturbs me the most about the dialog surrounding woman today is the divisive nature of the discussion: the factions that believe women should lean in to careers versus the factions that believe women should solely be at home, versus every opinion in between and the voices that tell women they have to do it all.


I want to start a new dialog. It’s not about leaning into your career vs leaning in to your children—it’s about living your life around your passions and going for it. There is no formula for what a good and successful life is; many will tell you what you are “supposed to be” and “should do.”


I choose to look toward women like my grandmother who lived a life not about what was expected but instead what was her passion.









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This entry was posted on June 6, 2013 by in Uncategorized.


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