It's been almost two years since I finished reading Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. It had been on my "to read" list for quite a while, though when it first came out I wasn't sure I even wanted to read it. Interestingly, after reading many reviews, it was a truly scathing review, written by a former Facebook employee, that convinced me I wanted to read it. Bad reviews of that ilk tend to make me suspicious. (If you haven't read the book, Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk is a good intro to what she discusses.)
When I think about Sheryl Sandberg's message and how my own professional life has played out, I know that there are times that I've made decisions that were not in my best interest long-term. Sometimes, the short-term is the higher priority, but there were instances that I could have been a better advocate for myself and I chose not to rock the boat. Fear was a big driver in my decision-making, along with a healthy dose of insecurity.
I spent years sitting comfortably in a little box that others built up around me. I allowed people (supervisors, colleagues) to dictate what I would do and how I'd do it - and I conformed to their expectations without question. At some point, I started to poke holes in the box, seeing little bits of what was possible outside. Finally, that box began to feel uncomfortable and stifling.
It can seem as if Sheryl Sandberg is saying that every woman should aspire to reach the C-suite, and I think some have interpreted her message along those lines - I even looked at it that way for a while. I don't anymore.
What I get from her is encouragement to go after what you want professionally and personally and find ways to make the two balance in a way that works for your individual situation. Women have a lot to offer, and I am passionate about supporting my fellow women in business in achieving their goals and making a difference for them in Ottawa.
Last night, I was at the Annual General Meeting of the Women's Business Network of Ottawa. I joined the network nearly three years ago as a way to build relationships in the business community, specifically with women. I've had the pleasure of calling several of the women in the network my clients, though that honestly isn't my goal when I go to our events. I want to learn from others, grow in my abilities as a service provider, and support other women in business.
Since I joined the WBN, I've discovered that I'm very passionate about helping women in business. I'm a helper by nature - people often have to stop me from volunteering to do things. (I'm getting better at keeping my mouth shut or saying no or suggesting someone else.) I think women in the business community have unique needs that the WBN is trying to address. We're raising awareness of disparities that exist. We're encouraging women to go for what they want and supporting them while they do it.
These days I'm leaning in to what I want. From the writing conference I'm attending later this month, to doing freelance work I enjoy when I'm not at my day job, to doing more writing in general. Last, but not least, I've taken on a role that I'm very excited about - one that I wouldn't have tried were it not for a push from a friend.
For the next year, I am the President of the Women's Business Network. Pretty cool, eh?
The opportunity to take action on the passion I have for helping women in business is irresistible. The team of Executives and the Board leadership this year is a group of women that I am truly thrilled to work with.
It's one piece of the bigger picture for me. It's a huge piece, but I'm honoured to have the opportunity.
I'm leaning in to the things I feel strongly about and hoping to make a difference in the community overall.
Just as we all have our different realities of balance, we have different definitions of success. For any woman that wants to take on the kind of leadership role in the corporate world, I hope they do lean in to every opportunity that keeps them moving forward. And for all the amazing small business owners that I know, I hope they lean in as well - to their own definition of success and to their community. I will be right there rooting for them as they move forward in their chosen work.