In Order to Lean In, Stand Up and Be Heard

stand up and be heardIn order to lean in, you must first stand up and be heard. That’s my advice for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after reading her book, Lean In.

I realize I’m a few weeks late to the Lean In commentary, but I was too busy standing up for myself to write. After five years of teaching, consulting and writing, I’ve just stepped back into the corporate world and lost control over my schedule. That is, until a colleague took me aside and said, “You don’t have to accept every meeting invitation on Outlook. Just book yourself busy.”

Better advice was never spoken. Once I learned to book myself busy, I had time to work. I had time to stand up and be heard. I had time to read Sandberg’s book and think back on my zigzag journey as a working woman and think about the future careers and life choices ahead of my nieces, goddaughters and the daughters of my friends.

And all this thinking inspired me to write a cheer for all the women inspired to keep their hands raised, sit at the table, stand up for themselves and speak their truths after reading Lean In.

All together now, to the cadence of “Lean to the left, Lean to the right.”

Stand to Lean In.
Stand to Lean Out.
Raise Your Hand Now.
Shout! Shout! Shout!

I may not be much of a cheer writer, but I was on my high school’s drill team, which is similar to a pom-pom squad with precision marching and a kick line à la the Rockettes. It took me three years of tryouts and lots of high kicks in the privacy of my teenage bedroom to get onto that squad. That might explain the difference in my career versus Sandberg’s, who spent one high school summer working as a congressional page.

At that time, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil “crushed” Sandberg when he asked her if she was a pom-pom girl. She had no response for him back then. However, years later she writes: “I might even tell him that I’m a pom-pom girl for feminism.”

Shake those pom-poms, Sandberg. The cause needs a new captain.

Baby Boomer me reaped the early benefits made for women by captains in feminism’s second wave. I was too young to wear a bra when they were supposedly burning them, but by the time I got to college, I watched friends get jobs in male-dominated fields and go on to medical and law school. When business schools started attracting women, I took remedial calculus and earned an MBA, because that’s what women were doing.

Like many of my female cohorts, I fell into the trap of seeking mentors through official mentoring programs, which Sandberg describes as “waiting for Prince Charming.” I also raised my hand and then lowered it, because I was raised to believe that just being a good girl would get me where I wanted to go. True confession — my goal in many a presentation was to be liked in the hope that I would be listened to.

Unlike many of my female cohorts and Sandberg, I did not have to deal with managing a family life, since for most of my working life, I wasn’t even married. I didn’t have to worry about someone not doing 50% of the household work, something Sandberg speaks strongly about, because I was stuck with all 100% of it. True confession — I often longed for a traditional 1950s wife.

Sandberg has made it easy to join the Lean In movement. Just follow the template for creating and running small support groups called Lean In Circles. The first principle of starting a circle is selecting your peers, defined as women “in similar stages in their career.”

Now, I love groups and clubs. I belong to two book clubs, a ladies’ dinner club, a writers’ group, and a craft club. And I consider all the women in my various clubs to be peers, yet we are not all at the same stage of our careers or even our lives.

We work full and part-time, inside the home, outside the home, even from the home office. We thrive within corporate structures, entrepreneurial ventures and the creative space.

We are married, never-married, divorced, mothers, grandmothers, single-mothers. We are retired, will never retire and are at one point or another just tired. Importantly, we span generations. This diversity brings depth and energy to our discussions.

So, I have a suggestion for Captain Sandberg and all the Lean In teams being created out there. Think broadly about populating your circles — especially regarding age. Fill the seats around the table with fresh perspectives and with viewpoints from women who have been standing up for decades and have a few tricks to pass on. I, for one, offer to get the high kicks higher, which will involve drills on how to raise hands high without raising hands, because that’s such a girl thing to do.

All together now, to the cadence of “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar.”

Twenties, Forties, Sixties or more.
All for women stand up and roar.

Go Team.


  1. Karen

    Julie, this is your best column ever!!!!!! Gotta get back to roaring. Karen 🙂

    • Julie (Author)

      Thanks Karen! Love your roaring support.

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