The recent launch of the book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has ignited fiery conversations about women in the workplace, placing the onus largely on themselves to compete head-to-head with their male colleagues. It can be done, and Sandberg’s manifesto will without doubt inspire change, if not in action then at least in mindsets.
Just as there’s more than one way to light a fire, there’s more to being a successful career woman (or career person for that matter) than simply leaning in. Because “in” can go in so many different directions. The key is deciding which direction you’re going to lean, and then going at it full-force. And importantly, leaning in is only possible if you can learn to lean on and be leaned on.
Leaning in the right direction – for you
Like Sandberg, I’m a work-oriented female business school graduate, with as much (if not more) drive and ambition than most of the males I’ve encountered throughout my education and career. I’m also a mother, and it’s this part of my life that has enabled me to grow the most as a person and as a professional.
Prior to having children, it was difficult to imagine stepping off the traditional career ladder I had worked so hard to climb until then. The leap into entrepreneurship has been a perfect solution, for me. Starting Felicity stimulated a huge spike in my learning and career curve. It’s exhilarating to build something from the ground up, especially when it’s filling a void in the communications agency landscape, not to mention offering a workplace alternative for associates between the “all or nothing” of a traditional agency or corporate model. By starting a business, I essentially leaned out of one career path, and leaned in to another. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everybody, but I do believe that everyone has their own “in” – they just have to find it and then lean hard. And like most things in life, too much of a good thing ceases to be good: Bend too far in any one direction, and something will snap!
Lean on, and be leaned on
If you want to truly be able to lean in, you have to learn to lean on. Trusting and empowering others can be a challenge for those of us who are used to doing things independently. Be it family, friends, colleagues or those in your extended network, without a support structure in place, women and men alike would find it difficult to really get ahead in their careers and “have it all” in other aspects of their lives. Or, realistically, to “have it most”, all of the time. Leaning on is reciprocal, as you have to be there for others. This need to depend on others is often a tough one for women to accept, but in my experience, it can mean the difference between achieving your career and life goals, or not.
As the Felicity team continues to grow and lean on one another, we look forward to enabling associates and clients alike to lean in to – and be successful at – whatever direction ignites their passion.