What a question. We live in a world where only a very small percentage of women sit at the top. The C-suite. Government officials. Board seats. Across every industry, we have only a meager presence. After reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, I’ve come to believe it’s because we’re afraid. Afraid that we’re not good enough, afraid that a man can do it better. Afraid that we won’t get married because we’re too career focused, or too “intense.” Afraid that if we do get to the top, we won’t have anyone to share it with. As a gender, we are afraid.
When I was a little girl, I started a card shop, printing template cards off of Print Shop Deluxe and selling them to my family friends and neighbors. It cost my dad a small fortune and the cards were ridiculous, but I had my customers. I decided I should sell them in China, so I went to the backyard and started digging. I was told if I dug deep enough, I would get there. I think my parents just wanted to keep me off the computer, but I was envisioning the BRIC economy before it became one. The point is, I’ve had big dreams for as long as I can remember. And more importantly, I was fearless.
I’m not here to write a book review, or even summarize the key points because I truly believe that all men and women should read this book. But I do want to talk about the big question it posed. These words, so simple, so plainly stated, written across the walls of the Facebook office, words that have kept me up a night since I finished the book, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
It’s interesting and sometimes challenging to be a younger woman in the corporate world. From the moment you walk into a room, you have to overcome judgment and preconceived notions. Yes, I get nervous, but am I afraid? I get uncomfortable with success and public recognition. Maybe this means I’m afraid too.
I don’t associate the word “afraid” with my personality. I will get on an airplane and go anywhere in the world by myself. I will not say no to an opportunity, even when it’s beyond my comfort level and outside of my experience. I don’t take no for an answer. But after reading this book, I see that maybe I have been afraid and I just didn’t know it. Perhaps my fear has been unconscious. The important thing is the question. Ask it. Ask it all the time. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Write it across your notebooks, or make it the backdrop of your phone if you need to. This book has allowed me to understand that where I fall short, is related to fear. If Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, asks herself this question, then so should I. And so should every other woman. The sooner we come to terms with our own fears and how it affects our behavior, the sooner we can tip the scales.
There are a lot of seats at the top for women to fill. In fact, 86% of executive officer positions are currently held by men. I think, if we weren’t afraid, we would get there pretty fast. Sandberg wants 50/50 but I think we deserve even more. As Oprah says, Lean In is a modern day manifesto to women. Get inspired, get motivated and lean in. Our journey is just starting.
Nicole is an Account Director at Work Group. Joining the business in 2009, her focus is on building effective relationships with clients – partnering with them to uncover their employment promise and bringing it to life through a compelling and engaging brand strategy. She’s passionate about all things “brand” and about women in the workplace. Learn more about who she is and what she thinks on LinkedIn.