With the recent release of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In , I've found myself really reflecting on the future we pave for our nation’s girls. Sheryl (since I bought her book, I’m allowing myself to be on a first-name basis here) talks about the importance of empowering young women in her book. As a feisty young woman new to the professional world, I found much of what Sheryl speaks of in her TED Talk to ring true. Not only have I realized that we, as women, hold ourselves back (we don’t always speak up or we give up that seat at the table to the man left standing), but we hold other women back as well. We don’t support each other in productive ways. In fact, we often say not-so-pleasant things about women who are successful. Not only are we creating obstacles to success for one another, but we’re teaching the girls of our future generation to be silent.
The lack of support from other females starts early in life. I cannot say from scientific research (though I’m sure it’s out there!), but I can say from my experience this is true. My sister is a second grade teacher. I am often lucky enough to be entertained with her latest tale of what mischief her students are up to. This year’s theme has been “drama” between the girls in her classroom. Every week she has a new story about how mean the girls are to each other. By the end of the tale, one of the girls is crying. If at age 7 we are already pitted against each other to the point of tears, how can we possibly support each other in our professional decisions?
While I do not have the solution to this problem, I desperately want to change it. I have challenged myself to build stronger, more supportive relationships with the women in my life (with the help of two friends I’m putting that goal into action by starting a Lean In Circle ). I am recognizing the accomplishments of women I know and taking a look at their power as inspiration instead of competition. In a past blog, I talked about how women compare themselves to others. It’s a challenge to fight this urge to compete with one another, but I’m working on it! I admire Sheryl Sandberg for bringing these realities to the surface and encouraging us to talk about them. She has certainly empowered and inspired me and I hope to one day inspire other young women and empower our future generation of girls to speak up, sit at the table and lean in.