Leaning In: Results needed, not celebrity branded hot air
Is Leaning In celebrity branded hot air?
It has been almost impossible to go online or pick up a newspaper in the last couple of weeks without reading about Sheryl Sandberg's tips on "leaning in". How and why the advancement of women in the workplace has stalled And it has indeed stalled. The barrage of verbiage on the matter has been overwhelming, with global pundits, male and female, wading in ad nauseam, analysing almost every word and angle in the minutest detail. The reaction to the book itself has perhaps fascinated me more than the issues it raises. But will Lean In endure? I'm not so sure.
Statistics from any developed economy would suggest that since anti-discrimination legislation hit the statute books 40 years ago, although changes have been taking place, there is still a disconnect for women between some wider cultural developments and workplace practises. 60% of graduates are women, yet they occupy only a small percentage of senior roles.You don't have to be a Think Tank whizz to see that something is clearly out of sync.
Sandberg's book is a vocal rallying call to to examine thoroughly all the underlying elements of this conundrum. As one of the most powerful women globally, with a reported $500 million fortune, she has leveraged her international klout to stimulate this discussion. But to what extent is all the hoopla around Lean In, celebrity branded hot air?
But despite opening a global debate, the world is still not without it's cynics. Some women claim that they have leaned in so far that they have almost fallen over. Others suggest that organisations are so leaned back to be almost horizontal. Another contingent suggest that these high profile initiatives, with change from the top down led by multi-millionaire women, skirt over the core question that what is currently on offer, may not be worth leaning in for. It has not gone unnoticed that both Wal-Mart and Citibank are on the Lean In Board of Advisers. Neither company has an unblemished track record with regard to their female employees working in the trenches. They are now being whitewashed via their alignment to what has within weeks become the hot global Lean In brand.
Let's not forget either that this conversation has truthfully been going on for years without her. However, her celebrity persona has allowed her to re-ignite it, but more importantly make it highly visible and give it instant credibility.
What she is doing is simply re-branding an existing message.
We live in a culture where celebrity endorsement influences many of our basic decisions and thought processes: the face creams we use, the food we buy and the cars we're driving. Sandberg says there is gender imbalance, thus it is so. Her call to action has produced an almost evangelical response from a group of born-again feminists who have now seen the diversity light.
The book has undoubtedly acted as the flint needed to create that vital spark to ignite a floundering and tired discussion. That can only be good. But reciting the number of "likes" on the Lean In Facebook page (148k today) starting countless monthly Lean In circles with their down-loadable Lean In circle kits, cutesy potluck dinners and "book club /volunteer approach", will I'm sure be jolly good fun, but will have little real value if nothing concrete comes of it all. What we are seeing, as anyone who was around then knows well, is something similar to the consciousness raising activities of the 60s and 70s.
Talking in "circles" has little value without sustainable results. This is really peer mentoring by another name.
It now up to everyone involved in any part of this process to fan those flames to stimulate the right level of engagement to produce meaningful outcomes from those many discussions. More is needed from this fire than celebrity endorsed and branded hot air and smokescreens. And talking in "circles" .
What we need real systemic change and at a faster pace and leaning in doesn't do that. It's yet another initiative to encourage women to change to fit in to male coded environments, without examining and questioning the values and behaviours on which those cultures are based. The situation is typically nuanced with some women as well as some men needing competence coaching and training. But leaning in will probably not result in very much more than a lot of circular talk.
Do you need a coach or a mentor to boost your career? Get in touch?
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
23rd January 2020 - How to build an employer brand that attracts and retains women.
In-house corporate workshop , Brussels
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
Conference swag bags no longer feel like a welcome gift, and instead tend to feel like a waste of resources and effort. Here are some tips to improve them.read more
Make your employer brand attractive to women so that you can attract the top potential candidates.read more
We use it casually every day, but now we need to work out the best social media etiquette for professional use. Remember, your whole reputation could be gone with just one click.read more