nehasampat

Getting from Here to There, Part I: Expanding Our Vision (Lean In Group Discussion Session 1)

Our intergenerational women lawyers' facilitated group discussion kicked off with shared stories and insight gained, as we jumped into the Introduction of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, titled “Internalize the Revolution.” We focused on Ms. Sandberg’s story of how she, as a very pregnant senior employee at Google, realized the need for reserved parking for pregnant women and relatively easily made that happen. Ms. Sandberg uses this story to illustrate the need for more women in leadership positions to advocate for women’s needs.

Our group first discussed Ms. Sandberg’s admitted embarrassment at not realizing the need for reserved parking until she “experienced [her] own aching feet.” We explored how our vision is limited to our own experiences in so many ways and shared how we practice moving beyond such limitations. One member offered “exposure” as an important step and shared how she makes it a point to step outside her comfort zone and seek out experiences different from her own and people different from herself, thereby broadening her own perspective. For example, she engages as an ally with minority affinity groups in her workplace even when she is not a member of that particular minority. Another member described how, as a leader of some minority affinity groups, she creates a culture of inclusion and connection right off the bat, making it a point to invite others who may not be members of that particular minority themselves and publicly acknowledging their engagement.

We talked briefly about how we can expose men to our perspectives and experiences and acknowledged knowing only a handful of men who have read Lean In. At least some of these men subsequently solidified their dedication to causes often viewed as women’s issues. Interestingly, some of the men who had read the book were described as very stereotypically masculine, which helped bust some of our own biases.

Those of us from the older generations agreed that, thankfully, it has become easier over the past few decades to speak openly about difference and diversity in mixed groups. A few decades ago, junior women attorneys would go privately and individually to each senior woman attorney in the office to better understand how that woman handled the challenges women uniquely face. Nowadays, there are groups to discuss these issues openly and regularly. Despite this important step forward, however, these groups still are filled with predominantly women, which likely is limiting further progress.

What steps can you take to expand your vision or expand the vision of others to include your perspective? Please share your thoughts, comments, questions, and ideas relating to this post or generally to Lean In in the comments section below so we all can benefit.

You can find Part 2 of this blog post here.

To learn more about this facilitated group discussion series, please read the previous blog posts:

Read, Share, Grow, and Connect: Facilitated Group Discussion Series for Women Lawyers, 2/18/16
Read to Lead: How a Book Club Can Drive Diversity, 2/29/16
Ready, Set, Read!, 5/23/16

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Neha Sampat is founder, consultant, and coach at GenLead, where she focuses on inclusion, leadership, and professional development. She received her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law, after which she practiced technology licensing and education law and later served as Dean of Students and Adjunct Professor of Law & Leadership at Golden Gate University. She brings to GenLead vast experience supporting and supervising thousands of diverse students and staff and also successfully collaborating with stakeholders of varying backgrounds.

Follow Neha on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NehaMSampat and www.twitter.com/BelongLab.

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