nehasampat

Getting from Here to There, Pt. II: Jumpstarting the Revolution (Lean In Group Discussion Session 1)

As mentioned in Part I of this post, our intergenerational group of lawyers had a rich and enlightening discussion on the Introduction to Lean In. We focused much of our first session on discussing Ms. Sandberg’s story about requesting reserved pregnancy parking.

Our group initially held varying opinions of Ms. Sandberg’s request. One member of our group shared that if a junior attorney were to come to her and ask about requesting reserved parking spots for pregnant women, she likely would advise against it in an effort to protect the junior attorney. She shared that even if management were to agree to such a request, they might silently be judging the junior attorney, which could negatively impact the young woman’s career down the line. Interestingly, some of our Millennial participants opined that they didn’t see any negative issue with Ms. Sandberg’s request, and instead actually supported and admired her for taking such a stance. We wondered how different sub-cultures within our country (East vs. West Coast) and our profession (private vs. public sector) might indicate different risk levels in making such requests (or even in deciding how much to share openly about ourselves).

We lamented that Ms. Sandberg didn’t provide more insight to junior women who may find themselves in a similar situation with a desire to make a similar request. We considered (and this may have been Ms. Sandberg’s point) that perhaps it is up to older generations of women to make and support such changes because it is safer for them to rock the boat, so to speak, presumably because they are in leadership positions and thus wield more power. As senior women attorneys gain greater exposure to younger generations’ perspectives, these senior attorneys may find that they agree with the younger generations on (and can actualize) some ways to shift our profession towards true gender inclusion.

We recognized, nonetheless, that there is a very difficult balance for women to strike between playing the game according to current rules to protect oneself and taking a perhaps unpopular, albeit righteous, stance that carries greater personal risk. For instance, some of the more experienced attorneys in our group advised that we, as women, explain ourselves less and, instead, take an approach more akin to what men tend to do: just do what they feel they need to do without explanation. For example, men generally don’t explain where they are going when they leave the office, whether they are going to golf, leave early for a personal appointment, or meet a family need. Why do we women feel like we have to be more open about our plans and explain where we are going? No one needs to know why we are leaving the office as long as we are getting our work done. Many of us nodded in support of this notion.

However, we then considered the downside to that approach: Being tight-lipped allows the current structure to perpetuate. Perhaps we should, instead, own it: “I’m leaving early to go to my kid’s school activity.” But own it in a way that supports all women, not just those who have children. We expressed a desire to be cognizant that each woman’s priorities outside of work are important, and all women should have control over their schedules as men do. Perhaps, it is worth taking the short-term hit by being open about our priorities and values in order to “pave the road forward” for womankind in the long term.

That said, we can’t pave the road if we are stuck in the parking lot. Like the pregnant Ms. Sandberg trying to sprint across that lot to her distant spot, we women have to travel farther while carrying more than our male counterparts, and our revolution has slowed to a crawl. What do you think can we do to jumpstart the revolution and get out of the proverbial parking lot?

Please share your thoughts, comments, questions, and ideas relating to this post or generally to Lean In in the comments section so we all can benefit.

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

We thank Ms. JD for partnering on this project, and we thank JC Law Group for donating the space.

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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.

2 Comments

Julie Cummings

Great insights, Neha. I appreciate how challenging it is to curate and write about the discussions that your book group has. But I love reading the perspectives of your group’s members. I will enjoy following along from afar. You made me think… I wonder how we mothers raising boys can raise men to become tomorrow’s Solutions instead of tomorrow’s status quo.

nehasampat

Thanks for your comment, Julie! It is a joy to share some of the thoughts and insights of our wise women. I’m glad you are following along. I think your question about how we raise our boys is a very important one, and I am grateful you raised it. How we raise our sons is equally important to gender equality as how we raise our daughters. I hope I can raise my son in a way that he can understand and honor the traits our society generally views as feminine and, therefore, weak. I hope he can strive to nurture those traits within himself and therefore learn firsthand that such traits are actually tremendous strengths. I’d love to hear what you and other parents do to make our sons part of the solution!

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