Whatever happened to leaning in?

Sheryl Sandberg is a titan of digital media who has remade herself into a champion of women’s rights and having a Plan B.

The manifesto which launched her is LeanIn. The premise of this, her first book, is how to encourage more women to seek leadership roles. She seeks an equal world where women “take a seat at the table” and then “lean in”.

In the main it’s a lively, intelligent and useful handbook for women who think they want it all – a top job, big salary, understanding boss, supportive partner, a couple of kids and Rolls-Royce childcare.

But a manifesto for ambition such as this can be daunting for suit those women who are just not inclined to tackle work-life in quite the way Sandberg suggests. They need to hear many different stories of the path to leadership, because one size does not fit all.

Since 2013, when LeanIn was published, the sad fact is not much has improved. In Australia, we have seen female political leaders come and go, and we’ve seen no increase in the number of women running ASX 200 companies.

In fact, the Chief Executive Women census published in September 2017 points out only 5% of CEOs are women, 9% are CFOs and 13% are Group Executives or COOs of executive leadership teams.

Sandberg’s important message will never change – women leaders must speak out about the challenges and be supportive of other women.

Women telling stories about their professional and personal journeys is vital for younger women setting foot on or working their way up the career ladder. They need to know the path doesn’t have to be straight up – it can take a few zig zags along the way as life demands to be lived.

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