Friday, July 25, 2014

WWW Diaries - Sheryl Sandberg with 'Lean In' and the WLDP

This is my first entry to the WWW Diaries and I don't know where to begin.  Not for a lack of topics but simply because my brain gets overwhelmed with the number of topics that come to mind when i put pen to paper (ok ok.. I meant fingers to keypad!).

I was part of the recently conducted Women's Leadership Development programme at Chennai and thought that if the powers that be are ok with it, I would write my first entry on this.  It was a great session and lots of fun and bonding amongst the women that attended the session.  The session led us through a discovery of our own self through administration of the DISC personality test and helped us identify our core strengths and weaknesses and how we could leverage them in different scenarios.  We also learnt a lot about how much social conditioning plays a role in shaping our identity and how we could differentiate between biology-imposed sex roles and society-imposed gender roles.  Before I begin to give away too much about the session, let me quickly move on :-)

My key take away from the session was Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk that was played to us.  She made just three points and made them so powerful.

Number one:  Sit at the table.  It means just what it states.  When you are in a meeting of significance, with your boss or may be your boss's bosses... Don't be shy and sit on the side of the table.  Don't underestimate yourself.  You are who you are.  Sit at the table and make your opinions known when you need to.  Be confident and take charge.

The second one:  Make your partner a 'real partner'.  This one should really resonate with all of us Indian women.  How many Indian women do you know that claim their husbands can't cook, clean or fold clothes?  That the men can't teach children, run the washing machine or clear up the table?  Quite a lot, right?  And do you really believe this must be true?  We should give men more credit.  They are fully capable of contributing to all types of tasks, except the biological tasks of carrying a child and breastfeeding it.  As women, we need to provide them with the chances to help us out more.  How many times have you requested your husband to do something and then re-done it in front of him, muttering about how it's never done the right way, if someone other than you does it.  Give up this control.  Make your husband a true partner and trust them to be able to contribute well, really well.  You DON'T have to do everything.

The third one:  Don't leave before you leave.  This was the one that was really true for me.  As women, many of us tend to over think and analyze stuff.  And sometimes this goes too far.  Sheryl talks about a woman she knew who was yet to have a boyfriend but was already planning how to balance her career when she had a child.  With this balancing in mind, she was taking lesser challenges than her male colleagues of the same age and giving up exciting opportunities.  Don't we do this as well?  Many young women, only 3 or 4 years experienced, will tell you that they don't want to make the project change or that onshore opportunity or the change in role - because their family is looking out for a suitable alliance and they might have to move locations/jobs after the wedding.  So why bother to take up the new opportunity now?  By doing this, they are effectively closing out on career growth options and make their jobs lesser interesting to them while they wait for the magical alliance to turn up.  If marriage itself is this tough, more so is pregnancy and leaving the baby and getting back to work.  Many women begin planning how they will balance their lives with a baby when they start planning to have the baby - with the effect that they leave behind boring jobs when they go on maternity leave. Any one will tell you that it's tough to return from being with your baby on maternity leave.  Does it not make it tougher to come back if you have a less than exciting job to come back to?  Just because you gave up on those opportunities when you started planning your baby?  So, again, don't leave before you leave.

I walked out of the session determined to buy Sheryl's book 'Lean In' next.  Will make my next post on that book once I finish reading it.