• Tips for Entrepreneurs

Meet 12 Women Who Are 'Leaning In'

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? That’s the question Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg asks in her bestselling book, “Lean In.”

We met Sandberg when she was the keynote for the Professional BusinessWomen of California Conference in San Francisco. Just as she did in her runaway hit TedTalk in 2010, she charmed the 4,000+ women who packed the Moscone Center for a day of workshops, seminars, and Lean In Circles. Scroll down to learn about Sandberg’s insights.

How are you leaning in? That’s the question we posted to a dozen of our Inkandescent Speakers, clients, columnists, colleagues, and friends. We asked them to share their thoughts and tips, then matched their ideas with one of Sandberg’s 10 tips. Their responses are below.

We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email to share your thoughts.

(And, if you missed Sandberg’s ideas in our March 2015 issue, click here to read all about it.)


1. How are you sitting at the table?

The CEO of Pantheon Enterprises, Laura Roberts, says:

Women not only have to sit at the table, they should feel compelled to push and encourage more women to be at the table — as leaders. The world has slowly shifted in the right direction as more women have had the ability and the courage to step into leadership positions. As the number of women leaders multiply, outcomes improve. Period.

Speaking from experience, I can say that I have known what it feels like to be discounted. Fortunately, things have changed dramatically for me since I founded Pantheon Chemical. What I now know is that self-limiting stories held me back, and my hope is that by leading by example, I can encourage other women to push past their own fears.

There are so many issues challenging us today: social justice, environmental sustainability, economic and geopolitical issues. Yet take a good look at where the solutions are developing. It is evident that when women are at the table and are equal to men, the solutions come more quickly.

Clearly, women not only deserve a seat at the table — men and women both need to believe their presence at the table is extremely important for all future generations. Otherwise we may just get more of the same.

Click here to listen to our podcast with Laura Roberts.

2. How are you balancing your desire for success with your yearning to be liked?

Author of “Selling With Noble Purpose” and sales expert Lisa McLeod says:

Sheryl Sandberg confirmed what we already knew in our hearts to be true: When you step into power, you forfeit your chance of being voted Ms. Popular.

Still, it hurts. As women, the desire to be liked is hardwired into the most primal part of our brains. Throughout history, ancient history as well as much of the last century, success for men meant power success for women meant attracting the right mate. The desire to be liked drives much of our childhood and adolescent behavior.

And that’s where it should stay, in our youth. As we come into our own, women — and men, too, for that matter — need to focus on contributing more than likability. Years ago, young girls felt they had to hide their smarts behind a pretty smile. Thankfully, today, most people no longer subscribe to the false dichotomy of brains versus beauty.

When women had the guts to own their smarts, things started to change. The same thing will happen with power and likability. As more women act forcefully, and own their power, it will become the norm. Men don’t worry that lesser performers will dislike them for displaying competence. Women shouldn’t either. You can be graceful and forceful at the same time. Generations before us had much more challenging obstacles to overcome. My grandmother marched with Susan B. Anthony for women’s right to vote. If she could do that, I’m not going to complain about jumping over one of the last few hurdles.

Click here to read Lisa McLeod’s column.

3. How are you navigating your way through your career?

We asked former Olympic skier Tara Sheahan, president of Conscious Global Leadership, who answered by first defining “career”:

(Noun) An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.

(Verb) Move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction: “The car careered across the road and went through a hedge.”

I had to Google the definition of “career,” because I don’t actually know if I have one. And I realized why. It’s because the definition above under the “noun” for career says nothing about inner fulfillment, connection with others, and happiness. Panache Desai, a spiritual mentor to many, says that the reason we have jobs and go to work is to learn how to love everyone. I’ll add to that how to be creative together, accept differences, honor uniqueness, and create profound change … together.

I teach mindfulness and emotional intelligence to help women discover that if they do want to wear the proverbial tiara, the only person whom they should seek to impress should be themselves. We can generate the validation we look for in our careers in one instance of awareness, in one moment of reflection: “I am amazing. And I love everything about myself.”

The “verb” description for career feels a lot more fun. I see myself careering across the road, flying through a hedge, and laughing hysterically at the rather uncontrolled and spontaneous life I’ve chosen to live. For me it begins with a baseline of self-love, and polishing the tiara daily.

Click here for more about Tara Sheahan.

4. How are you looking for mentors/mentees?

For a perspective on how entrepreneurs mentor, we asked Marga Fripp, founder of Empowered Women International (EWI), for her insights. She said:

When I founded EWI in May 2002, my vision was to create a community of women for women, who can help one another succeed; a place where women support each other, and where others can hear the stories these women tell. A place where the American Dream lives on, and everyone feels welcome and at home.

I realized that when women told their stories, people listened. There was empathy. There was compassion. There was understanding. Many of the women I’ve met did not speak English well or at all, but they used paintings and music to tell stories. People responded to this media and I believed there was a viable business opportunity for these women to sell their artwork, products, and crafts if they could obtain the right skills.

Our mission is to help immigrant, refugee, and low-income women integrate into the community, rebuild their lives, families, and livelihoods, and pursue the American Dream using the power of the arts as a means for communication, cultural understanding, and entrepreneurship. Ten years later, what started out as a network of immigrants, women artists, and a few business classes has blossomed into an organization that every year trains more than 200 immigrants, refugees, and low-income women in business and leadership skills. It also launches socially responsible micro-businesses that support women and their families, as well as our local economy.

Click here for more information about Marga Fripp and EWI.

5. What’s the corporate America perspective?

Lynn Brown, VP of corporate communications and community relations for Waste Management, says:

I get asked often if I will mentor someone. The answer is unequivocally “no.” I have never seen it work. Why? Because these relationships are often one-sided to the benefit of the mentee.

What does work? A relationship I call “champion-talent.” This approach better meets the real needs of both parties. The reason is simple. Talent, aka: a young up-and-comer, needs two things: challenging, fulfilling work and a path to growth. The champion needs motivated talent to benefit both the corporation and the champion’s own further development. If the right team comes together, they both get what they need and instead of just being a mentee, the talent is actually brought along in their career by the champion.

Just as champions benefit from talents’ help, the talents benefit from the champions’ promotions and the better jobs that the champion is able to, well, champion them for. It’s simple. Mutual benefit at the personal level to the benefit of the corporation. It’s a win-win relationship.

Click here for more about Lynn Brown.

6. How are you speaking your truth?

We asked Kristine Carlson, co-author of the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series, who shared the three things she considers when “speaking her truth.”

1. Stepping back from my reactions to create a moment of pause before responding. Speaking your truth is not always speaking what’s on your mind. I create a space upon my first reaction so I can reflect on what I’m feeling, breathe, and then respond from my heart. Consideration before speaking is the key to authentic communication, and to it being well-received in return. Taking that time to reflect changes the tone of the message delivered.

2. Valuing kindness and compassion first when communicating. With those in my personal relationships, business partnerships, and the grocery clerk — when kindness and compassion are your first intention, then speaking from this place will be received with grace.

3. Being transparent and real. The beauty of authenticity is that you don’t have to do anything other than be you. It’s knowing that you are already enough and showing up 100 percent as you. It’s a beautiful gift you give others because they in turn have permission to be transparent and real, too.

Click here to learn more about Kristine Carlson.

7. Are you leaving before you leave?

Educator Dr. Carol Horn left her teaching job to raise her three children midway through her career. She got back into the education business when they were older, and today is the coordinator of the Advanced Academics program (formerly Gifted & Talented) for the Fairfax County Public Schools. She’s also the author of upcoming book for parents, “The 10 Big Ideas: How to help your child think bigger, imagine more, and do better in school.” Horn explains:

I began my teaching career in Boston. I loved the challenge of working with students from the inner city. I left only because I got married and my husband was an army officer whose assignment was constantly changing.

Over the next 15 years, we moved 10 times and had three children. I continued to teach whenever possible; however, between reassignments and three small children, sometimes it became close to impossible. I stayed current in education by taking courses, substitute teaching when possible, and volunteering in multiple roles that allowed me to continue to work with my own and other children.

One day when I was volunteering at my children’s school, the principal invited me to apply for an opening at the school. The time was right and the invitation was all it took to bring me back into the workforce and continue a career I had begun 18 years ago. Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions; however, if you are persistent and creative, there are ways to stay current in your field and pursue a path that works for you.

Click here to read Dr. Horn’s Education column.

8. How are you letting your partner be your partner?

For a perspective on couples who work in separate businesses and have kids, we asked Lee Woodruff, co-founder of the Bob Woodruff Foundation / Remind.org, and author of the 2012 novel, “Those We Love Most.” Woodruff said:

I think women fall down because we always want to do it our way. I remember once early on in my marriage when I told my husband how the dishwasher was supposed to be loaded. He looked at me and said, “Do you want me to load it? If so, I’m going to do it my way — which is not necessarily going to be the exact way you want it.”

He was absolutely right, and that was a great moment because that’s exactly right on so many levels. If we truly want to be a partner in a marriage — and have a partner in a marriage — we can’t expect what they do to always be the way we’d do it. The fact is that women do so much of the home organizing and because we get so much practice, and are literally trained to be good at this, men are simply not as competent at it as we are. So if I want my husband to help out around the house, I just have to take a step back and allow whatever he does to be okay.

We have to honor the fact that men are wonderful dads, and in many cases do more than quintuple the amount of what their dads did. So when I am going to go out for two nights a week to promote my book, or go away for a week to give a speech or a book talk, then I need to just back off when I come home and the house is messy. If the kids are loved, and everyone got what they needed when I was away, the house being messy is not a big deal. The bottom line is that when you make your partner your partner, you have to focus on what truly matters.

Click here to read our interview with Lee Woodruff.

9. Here’s a partnership perspective from an entrepreneurial couple without kids.

We asked Barefoot Wine co-founder Bonnie Harvey for insights on how she and her partner, Michael Houlihan, worked together to build their business into what is now the #1 best-selling vino in the country. Not only that, but they co-wrote “The Barefoot Spirit,” which was published in May 2013 and was the June 2013 New York Times #2 Business Bestseller. Harvey said:

Working with your significant other in the same business is a challenge not recommended for everybody, but building the Barefoot Wine brand from nothing to a national and international best-seller with my business and romantic partner was a positive and profitable experience.

Skills. For one thing, we had different skillsets, and we each needed and respected the other’s contribution in order to succeed. He was front office and I was back office. For another, we did not micromanage each other. We gave each other the freedom to do our own thing and control our area of the business unfettered.

Decisions. All of our big decisions were unanimous. If we didn’t both agree, we didn’t do it. Even when we had a proper board of directors, it was made up of two women and two men, and we all agreed that all decisions would be unanimous. If three people couldn’t convince one, then it probably wasn’t a good idea anyway. This policy avoids the I-told-you-so’s that can go on for years and hurt working relationships.

Space. We made sure our workplace got out of the domestic part of the house as soon as possible. Starting out, we couldn’t afford a washer and a dryer, so we had plenty of space in the laundry room. It was important for us to physically and behaviorally separate work from our private lives. We had rules. One was no business talk in the bedroom. We also gave ourselves some space and time away from business to keep the romance alive. Every January, we would plan, and buy tickets in advance, for a few vacations a year. Then we would look forward to the break and plan our work around those breaks.

Chores. We had different skillsets in the home as well. I cooked and he cleaned. We also decided when we met that one of the things we both wanted in life was services. So as soon as we could afford it, we got a regular house cleaner, gardener, and maintainence person. Sure we could have saved the money, but instead we saved the time and made more money because of it.

Working with your partner in business is not for everyone, but if you follow whatever rules you agree on together, you will have a much better chance of success.

Click here to read our cover story on Barefoot Wine.

10. How are you embracing the mess?

We asked Karen Hanrahan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights in the Obama administration, who said:

First, I focus on what’s important and prioritize. My work focuses on people who suffer abuses, from civilian massacres and sexual violence to discrimination and torture. It brings perspective to my own challenges and helps me stay in touch with how lucky I am, even amid the mess.

Second, I ask for help. Mind you, this part of my strategy has taken some time for me to learn to do. But given my crazy work and travel schedule, I now reach out to friends and relatives to help me take care of things. From babysitting to dog walking to hosting my daughter’s birthday party, I’m drawing on people who love us enough to pitch in. And we do the same for others, too.

And last, I take a lot of deep breaths.

Click here to learn more about Karen Hanrahan.

11. How are you talking about inequity and gender differences?

We asked futurist and former Disney Innovator Yvette Montero Salvatico, co-owner of the futurist consulting firm Kedge, who said:

Evidence is mounting that the traditional gender labels of “male” and “female” are inadequate in the face of today’s social changes. We are complex beings, and should not be surprised that many feel the full expression of their identity cannot be captured by these antiquated terms.

Similar challenges are emerging around the concept of “race,” leading many to question the data-gathering methods that rely on multiple-choice responses to quantify diversity within organizations. The problem with these efforts is that diversity is more qualitative than quantitative.

Instead of calls for “more women on boards” and “increased representation of African-Americans in senior roles,” we should be looking beneath the surface to see what really matters: How do different individuals think, how do they act, and what do they believe? We must not let gender — or any other type of label — confine us. In order to do so, we need to start measuring diversity in new and more meaningful ways.

Click here to learn more about Yvette Montero Salvatico.

12. How are you working together — and for the greater good of the future?

We asked social entrepreneur expert Beverly Schwartz, VP Global Marketing at Ashoka, and author of “Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation,” who said:

The fast pace of change today demands a re-invention of the way we work. Working together means working with everyone equally. A team-of-teams approach needs to replace current structures, and needs to be composed of different actors with different perspectives and agendas. It consists of no particular gender — the only requirement is that everyone is collegial, supportive, and “leans in” to work to full capacity with each other.

That means a new generation of women as well as men will grow into their careers mentored in how to work collaboratively and creatively. This is one of the foundational criteria for being an innovative and successful social entrepreneur; creating and nurturing a team-of-teams approach to tackle social challenges.

The role of making sure women participate and get the chance to engage equally on these teams is up to women of later generations. I accept that responsibility every day and relish noticing the impact.

Click here to read Schwartz’ Social Entrepreneurship column.


How Are You Leaning In?

We’d love to hear from you! Send us your thoughts, bio, and photo and we’ll add it to our “Leaning In Circle” article on TrulyAmazingWomen.com. Send responses via email to: hope@inkandescentpr.com.

Here’s to harnessing your power, and your incredible, indelible, Inkandescent success!

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